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    I don’t think it’s feasible to force software engineering outfits to port their software to operating systems that it is not strategic for them to support. What I think is completely reasonable is to require the publishing of network protocols and data formats so that those without an iPhone can still hope to communicate via iMessage.

    I do not need to (or want to) run some poorly maintained binary blob from Apple just to get iMessage on a platform on which they did not want to, and thus are not skilled at, developing for. The poor Skype experience on Linux (or even, for some time, OS X) is a good case study in software quality on marginal platforms. Enshrining more of this same experience in legislation would not be as useful as requiring that anybody may interoperate with your data and communications walled garden if they so choose.

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      iMessage is at least partially tied to having an apple account. Those are free to get, at least.

      But what about whatsapp? Even if they publish the protocol, does that also require them to accept and route your messages for free?

      Taking a look at the cable industry and how cablecard plays out in practice is a good comparison for regulated openness.

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        Whose fault is it that WhatsApp protocol cannot be federated? Yes, they should route messages between a paying and a non-paying user for free.

        This is precisely why we, the internet community, have developed things like XMPP with Federation, which relieves the pressure of running the system from a single party.

        Which is also why I much prefer PSTN to WhatsApp, because with PSTN, I can use Google Voice, and it’s automatically compatible with pretty much every other mobile SMS user out there (at least in the US). Of course, as anyone in the telco loop knows, SMS within PSTN is far from being plain and easy, and appears to be mostly controlled by a few oligopolies, but I think it’s still better than a complete monopoly like WhatsApp.

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        This. The first thing I was thinking was, “Because porting to new platforms is free?”

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          It’s interesting to me though because it does feel like iMessage/WhatsApp/FB Messenger/Snapchat et. all are becoming the defacto backbone of communication just as the telegraph and telephone did. Just as SMS became a huge part of the way people communicate. If you squint hard enough, you can almost begin to see that messaging protocols on the internet are just as important to the greater population which would lead some to ask if it’s not a part of public service telecommunications. Telephones are regulated. SMS is regulated. Hell, the Internet is regulated. When will other popular forms of communication become regulated?

          For those of us in the industry, it’s easier for us to dismiss the notion given the transience of services and protocols. However, from a pure consumer standpoint, I would love if iMessage worked across platforms. At least for me, it represents a far superior form of SMS.

          That said, XMPP was superior too but free protocols like that have lost out except in focused implementations within walled gardens, at which point the protocol doesn’t matter if providers have no impetus to interoperate.

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            I don’t think you have to squint too hard at all. The iMessage service is a pretty direct attempt to disrupt and replace SMS; from the point of view of the average iPhone customer, the two services are relatively indistinguishable.

            One of the marketing draw cards of communications systems in general is a network effect: which of my acquaintances with whom I wish to communicate is primarily (or solely) available to me via that particular communications system. It is not a huge leap to realise it is generally not in the interest of the owner of a proprietary communication system (like iMessage) to enable other vendors to interoperate.

            It would be peculiar and distasteful if an iPhone could only make telephone calls to people who also owned iPhones; it should be similarly unacceptable for systems like iMessage (or Facetime) to draw borders between customers of one platform and customers of another. Regulation in this space would serve to reinforce that open Internet communication systems are a public good, as was the telephone system – that society is better served by open communication than by companies using communication with their customers as a competitive advantage.

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          Desperate

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            In a way I can see his point. I really liked using my Windows Phone, but I had to switch because I grew tired of my friends using all of these apps that I was unable to get, pushing me out of social situations. Oh, that inside joke is from a Snapchat, you wouldn’t get understand. Oh, we’re playing Trivia Crack, do you want to play? Things like that.

            Fact is, app makers control the success of your platform. And there’s barely room for two, let alone a third (even from a huge and developer-friendly company like Microsoft). But the problem isn’t with the app developers in my mind. The problem is I have to pay to run my apps on your platform. The problem is that I have to write my apps in Java on Android, in Objective-C on iOS, and in C# on Windows Phone. WebOS had it right, dammit, and no one cared until it was too late. Javascript for everything, and when it’s not Javascript it’s C++. On a more-or-less pure Linux kernel. Rooted by default. Is there anything regulators can or should do about it? I don’t think so. It’s just the nature of corporate-driven operating systems. On the desktop, there’s only room for Windows. In mobile, there may be only room for one as well. Developer’s can’t push their apps to more than a small handful of platforms without incurring too much pain and costs, and the platforms refuse to work together. So everyone has to lose.

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              Actually, from what I hear from Mozilla and Firefox OS, although WebOS did use HTML and JavaScript, to make your apps work, you’d still have to use a lot of proprietary mechanisms. It’s my understanding that they’re trying to standardise these kinds of things with Firefox OS.

              But, frankly, I don’t trust them. Sadly, people develop for a platform, not for technologies. Which is one of the reasons SeaMonkey now has general.useragent.compatMode.firefox, and which is set to true by default. And Googlebot pretend to be an iPhone, and iPhone is like Gecko, and Googlebot’s User-Agent string is several lines long. Et cetera.

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              This is completely hypocritical. Black Berry only started to port their software when they become the smallest platform.

              If they want open communication, they can either use existing open protocols (xmpp, sip) or open up their own protocol.