Beeper's fight to break Apple's stronghold on messaging with Eric Migicovsky | E1892
Beeper’s Eric Migicovsky joins Jason (00:00:00)
- It's challenging for startups to prioritize principles over profit by avoiding platforms they disagree with, especially when over 50% of the population uses those platforms.
- Speaking up about the difficulties of creating new products within ecosystems controlled by a single company is necessary to drive change.
- Aims to create a single app that allows users to chat with anyone on any chat network.
- Inspired by the existence of universal chat apps like AIM and Yahoo Messenger during the desktop era.
- Believes interoperability benefits everyone and regrets its decline during the transition to mobile.
- Criticizes big tech companies for creating siloed chat apps that limit communication.
- Supports 15 different chat networks, including WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram, and Instagram.
- Offers desktop, Android, and iOS apps for comprehensive accessibility.
- Built on top of the open-source chat protocol Matrix.
- Apple shut down Beeper's app three days after its launch in December 2022.
- The reason for the shutdown was Beeper's ability to provide Android users with blue text bubbles in iMessage, disrupting Apple's exclusive feature.
How Apple locks people into iMessage and makes it hard to switch from iPhone (00:06:30)
- Beeper aims to eliminate the need for multiple messaging apps by unifying all communication channels into a single platform.
- Apple's exclusive control over iMessage and SMS apps on the App Store has made iMessage the de facto standard for text communication in the US, leading to iPhone user retention.
- Switching from iPhone to Android results in the loss of iMessage chat history and the inability to send encrypted, high-resolution media, or edit messages when communicating with iPhone users.
- iMessage group chats are downgraded when an Android user is added, and Android users are ostracized due to the limitations of iMessage.
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Beeper Mini's release and Apple blocking Beeper Mini after just 3 days (00:13:35)
- Beeper launched Beeper Mini, an Android app dedicated to being a great iMessage client for Android.
- Beeper Mini reverse-engineered the iMessage protocol and implemented end-to-end encryption between the app and iMessage servers.
- Beeper Mini allowed Android users to associate their phone numbers with iMessage, so their messages would appear as blue bubbles to iPhone users.
- Within 3 days of its launch, Beeper Mini had over 100,000 users and generated millions of dollars in revenue.
- Apple took action to block Beeper Mini users from sending and receiving iMessages.
- Apple released a public statement claiming that blocking third-party services from sending iMessages was necessary to protect user security and privacy.
- Apple has a history of claiming that they would support open standards but then not ultimately supporting them.
- For example, Steve Jobs announced that FaceTime would be an open standard, but 13 years later, it is still not.
- Apple could bring more people into their ecosystem by making iMessage and iTunes apps for Android, Windows, and other platforms, but they have not done so.
- Apple's blocking of Beeper Mini is an example of protecting their monopoly over the messaging market.
- Apple argues that blocking third-party services from sending iMessages is necessary to protect user security and privacy, but this argument is disingenuous.
- Apple's actions are making the experience worse for iPhone customers and limiting user choice.
- The government should get involved and require Apple to give users more choice in messaging apps.
Fighting back against Apple as a startup founder (00:18:31)
- Apple has a history of restricting the use of third-party apps and services on its devices.
- The developer community is now standing up to Apple's restrictions.
- Beeper's mission is to help people migrate to an open-source chat protocol that doesn't force users to align with big tech companies.
- Beeper adopted an open-source chat protocol to enable users to move to a more open standard like email for chat.
- The goal is to create a future where users have multiple clients and vendors and can easily carry their connections to other platforms.
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The fight against Apple and thoughts on the outcome (00:22:18)
- Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Beeper, is advocating for interoperability between different messaging services and challenging Apple's dominance in the messaging market.
- Apple's refusal to allow Beeper access to iMessage has hindered its growth and ability to compete.
- The US Justice Department and the European Union are taking action against Apple for potential antitrust violations and mandating open interfaces for large tech companies.
- Apple may face legal consequences and be compelled to provide interoperability or adopt industry standards for its messaging services.
- This shift towards data rights and open interfaces could foster a more equitable environment for startups in the tech industry.
Prior experience dealing with platform restrictions at Pebble and the differences in timelines between startups and government regulation (00:28:01)
- Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Pebble, reflects on his experience building and selling the smartwatch company.
- Pebble's initial success was driven by a strong vision and a first-mover advantage in the smartwatch market, but it eventually lost its competitive edge due to over-manufacturing and a lack of a clear long-term vision.
- Competing with Apple's iPhone and its tightly controlled ecosystem presented significant challenges for Pebble, particularly in terms of integrating key features like text messaging.
- Startups can significantly impact the startup ecosystem by deciding which products to build and the platforms they work with, but the timeline for regulatory changes is much longer than a startup's lifespan.
- Speaking up about the difficulties of developing in a single-company-controlled ecosystem is crucial for change, even though it's challenging for startups to avoid the App Store and iOS platform due to its large user base.
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Apple's response to recent court rulings requiring App Store changes (00:36:17)
- Apple lost a lawsuit in the Epic v. Apple saga and was forced to allow developers to link out of their apps to their websites for payment processing.
- Instead of complying with the ruling, Apple implemented a popup warning users of potential risks and requiring websites to track users and send Apple a bill for 27% of payments made within 7 days.
- This action highlights Apple's monopoly power and disregard for fair competition.
- It occurred during the same week that Apple launched its new Computing platform, positioning it as a platform for developers to create new experiences, while simultaneously implementing the restrictive popup.
Speculation on whether Apple's AR glasses will succeed (00:38:54)
- Some developers are skeptical about the success of Apple's AR glasses.
- Developers are not rushing to develop for the platform.
- The form factor of AR glasses may be an issue for adoption.
- AirPods have been a compelling new piece of technology.
- The founder of Rabbit speculates about putting the Rabbit in AirPods.
- Imagine over-the-ear headphones with a Raspberry Pi or similar circuit board and an LTE connection for voice-activated tasks.
- Such a device would be a mind-blowing vision and could potentially exist in the world.
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