Google has announced that it's bringing end-to-end encryption to group chats in the Google Messages app. The security upgrade is heading to beta users first before being rolled out more widely.
End-to-end encryption means no one, not even Google, can read the content of messages. It's already supported in the Google Messages app for one-to-one chats, but now (via The Verge) it's going to be added to group conversations as well.
“End-to-end encryption is starting to roll out for group chats and will be available to some users in the open beta program over the coming weeks,” Google says. “This shouldn’t even be a thought – just an expectation and something anyone texting should not have to worry about.”
From SMS to RCS
In the same announcement blog post, Google revealed that the ability to quickly react to a message with any emoji is coming to Google Messages soon as well. At the moment, only a selection of emojis can be used as reactions.
Alongside a mention of these new features, Google also continued to push hard for RCS (Rich Communication Services) to become the new standard for everyone – the technology, an upgrade on SMS, is now widely available but has yet to be adopted by Apple on its iPhones.
Google's post also acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the SMS, a milestone which emphasizes how old the technology is as well as how overdue we now are for a standard that can fully replace it.
Analysis: SMS should really be history
The arrival of SMS three decades ago helped to transform the way that we communicate with each other – even if the messages were limited in terms of characters, and many phones could only store a limited number of texts at any one time.
Now, apps like WhatsApp and Slack have taken us far, far beyond those limitations. Messages can be much longer and include photos, videos or audio, and we can even tell when recipients have opened up the messages we send them.
It's benefits like these that make RCS a worthwhile upgrade, improving the security of messages and making features such as group chats much better. Google didn't create the standard, but it is heavily promoting it.
However, whenever an iPhone user texts an Android user, SMS is still the protocol used. Google wants that to change, but it's unlikely that Apple ever will – Apple knows that iMessage is one of the key reasons that people stick with iPhones.