Calvin Wankhede / Android Authority
As I scrolled through my social media feed earlier this week, I came across a number of reports claiming that businesses in India were abusing the RCS messaging standard to broadcast unsolicited ads. I personally haven’t used RCS for a long time – most third party SMS apps don’t support it and almost everyone around me uses WhatsApp anyway. However, I decided to set Google Messages as my phone’s default text messaging app to see if those claims were true.
Within the first hour of returning to Google Messages, I was greeted by my first RCS ad (pictured at the top of the post). It does not offer a way to opt out of future communication, as you might expect from a traditional SMS message or email.
It didn’t take long to follow more similar ads – I received a total of three messages in nine hours. By then, I had stopped blocking individual chats and turned off RCS altogether.
RCS-based ads look much more like illuminated billboards than nonscript newspaper ads.
Text-based ads aren’t new, but RCS lets senders go one step further with embedded images, buttons, and special text formats. This makes RCS-based ads look more like billboards than non-descript newspaper ads. Unfortunately, many Android OEMs use Google Messages as the default SMS app, which automatically activates RCS if your carrier supports it. In other words, RCS ads may soon become part of the default messaging experience for some, if not all, Android users.
We asked, you told us: Most of you have RCS messaging and use it
While many have speculated that these ads are the handiwork of businesses that abuse the open RCS protocol, I’m not entirely sure it’s a complete picture. The reason is here.
Ads in Google Messages: System Abuse or Intentional Behavior?
So why am I skeptical that businesses are simply abusing RCS? You see, many network providers outside the United States, including me, rely on Google Jib RCS Cloud Platform. Although Jibe enables users to easily send RCS messages across different carriers, many Indians may be responsible for the late encountered ads.
I received each RCS ad from a “verified business” in the Google Messages app. To understand how this is possible, you need to look no further than Jibe’s own website List A few business messages are “success stories.” Of the dozens or more examples, a large portion focuses solely on how RCS increased sales revenue, clickthrough rates, and app installs through “content-rich” promotions. These words all relate to one thing: advertising.
Here is a statistic directly from Google: Subway sold 140% more sandwiches through RCS ads via SMS. It shows just how effective (and attention-seeking) rich content can be. A few Google case studies discuss consumer-oriented applications for RCS’s rich feature-set. Check out these examples:
Overall, it seems that Google wants to use RCS messages for secret advertising just as much as for useful customer interaction. However, I do not believe that these two can co-exist – marketing is not just a place for meaningful conversation. Other chat services realized this fact long ago and implemented business-to-consumer messaging in a much less cumbersome way.
Marketing is not just a place for meaningful conversations.
WhatsApp, for example, offers a similar service but has one Strict internal policy Program management. In addition to requiring pre-approval from WhatsApp, businesses must explicitly collect user consent before initiating any communication on the platform. Even then, they can only start chatting with pre-authorized Message template. This policy only allows certain canned updates (pictured below) and maybe occasional marketing messages.
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
Although I have received WhatsApp messages from numerous local businesses in the last few years, they have never surprised me. In contrast, the free method of RCS for everyone seems to be suitable for abuse. With no oversight or approval process, it’s no surprise that spam has already overwhelmed the platform.
To be clear, I don’t think Google is actively promoting spam. RCS is an open and manageable protocol, similar to email and SMS. But even if Google can’t control the source of the spam, it will be able to fully detect it once it arrives on the Jibe network or on your smartphone. I further argue that the Jibe website should not highlight misleading business advertising as an RCS “success story”.
See also: Google still doesn’t understand what privacy means
Can Google protect RCS from spam?
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
So what can Google do to improve the frustrating RCS experience? One approach is to regain more control over RCS’s business communications division, especially for services based on its Jibe platform. Instead of trusting third-party message aggregators and carriers to their own police, Google may impose some rate-limiting and restraint.
For now, though, improving automatic spam detection for Google Messages seems like an easy win. That’s not to say too much – Google’s spam filter drove Gmail to success a decade ago. If it manages to accomplish something similar to SMS (and RCS), then Google Messages could actually become a selling point for Android. However, it remains to be seen whether Google even wants to stop this practice.
Our acceptance: Google’s RCS push is a little too late
If you’re wondering how WhatsApp manages to keep things in check, the platform Limits The number of new chats that can start a business in a 24-hour period It also includes a per-conversion pricing model. Finally, if multiple users block reports, flags, or chats, those limits are automatically downgraded.
Ads in Google Messages could eventually lead to a massive boycott of RCS
Google needs to take precautionary measures before RCS-based advertising and marketing messages become more prevalent. This will motivate an even larger percentage of Android users to completely disable chat features, reduce RCS acceptance and increase fragmentation.
Both segmentation and limited acceptance should be of particular concern to Google. The company has been trying for some time in Apple’s court to accept RCS on iPhones. Needless to say, this will not happen with the promotion of unwanted ads on the platform. After all, Apple’s iMessage platform Prohibits Practice and that policy will probably not change anytime soon.
Related: The best texting app and SMS app for Android