Typically, here at Contemporary Conservative, and on our podcasts, we don’t really cover technology and the news related to it. We’re usually more focused on politics and culture. However, there are times when those subjects intersect. Particularly in the issue I’m about to discuss, we find politics, i.e. the government, crossing paths with technology. For the background story, I’ll have to tell you about one of the latest hot button issues among the online tech nerds (and I mean nerds kindly) as well as some additional history.
First some background and history on the issue. Presumably, anybody reading this is familiar with the company Apple and the iPhone. What some people may be less familiar with is Apple’s messaging service called “iMessage.” iMessage is a messaging service built into many of Apple’s software and product platforms. It was first released to the public in October of 2011. It was created to be a replacement for standard SMS, or what most would understand as basic text messaging. SMS is an older technology, and has limitations, such as: lower picture quality when sending your friends a pic, difficulty managing group chats, and other rich features. The introduction of iMessage for Apple’s platforms helped get around those limitations for those using Apple’s products.
Instead of an Apple user’s message to another Apple user being sent through a cell phone carrier’s network, e.g. AT&T or Verizon, the message is sent through Apple’s own network of servers. This allows for higher quality photos to be sent, and group chats to be more organized. It also allows for features like read receipts, typing notifications, and many other features not capable with basic SMS. However, as I mentioned, iMessage is only available for those who use Apple devices and software. If someone has any other brand of device and software, they do not have access to iMessage. For example, a person with a cell phone from Samsung using Android software, or a HP computer using Windows software, they can’t get iMessage. Apple does not offer iMessage as an app for other devices and software to use. This now brings us to the current news in the tech world.
Despite iMessage being exclusive to Apple products, other companies have attempted to create work-arounds. These are usually related to making it possible for Android phone users to send and receive iMessages. The technical details on how the work-arounds were achieved are beyond the scope of this article, and different companies have done it in different ways, but most attempts have not been executed well for varying reasons. A company called Nothing Phone had brief success, but their method was found to be unsecured and had privacy issues. Then a company called Beeper had even more success with an app they made.
One of the big features of iMessage that I left out earlier is “end to end encryption.” In short, this means the iMessages being sent and received can’t be read by any other device except for the sender and receiver. This encryption is what helps make someone’s message private, and unreadable by potential bad actors. Beeper’s app for Android users to get iMessage was so successful because the app was able to utilize Apple’s own servers to send encrypted messages, as well as all the previously mentioned features that come with using iMessage. The app functioned just as iMessages would on Apple’s own devices. However, within a matter of days, Apple was able to fix their servers to prevent Beeper’s app from accessing them. Then again, Beeper found a way around the fix, and thus the cat and mouse game has started. Apple makes a fix, and then Beeper breaks the fix.
There are various reasons why Android users want to be able to have access to iMessage. The main issues deal with the idea of equal access and platform interoperability, meaning different platforms can work seamlessly together. After all, Google does offer Google Messages, their iMessage equivalent, for iOS users. So Apple should offer iMessage for Android users too. This idea is what, in part, Beeper’s app hopes to achieve. Being able to bring all of someone’s messaging services into one place regardless of a user’s platform. So when a little company is trying to stand up to a big company, it’s only a matter of time before there are calls for government to get involved.
During Apple and Beeper’s recent back and forth, Sen. Elizabeth Warren decided to speak up. In a post on Twitter X, she said, “Green bubble texts are less secure.” So why would Apple block a new app allowing Android users to chat with iPhone users on iMessage? Big tech executives are protecting profits by squashing competitors. Chatting between different platforms should be easy and secure.” I recommend reading this article for a better breakdown of the problems with Warren’s post. In short, it’s technologically ignorant and misses the point. I’d like to focus more on the general idea of government intervention.
For full disclosure, I am a user and fan of Apple products. That isn’t to say I don’t have my own issues with Apple as a company. However, there is no need for the government to step in and regulate “Big Tech,” and force Apple to allow access to iMessage. Why? The simplest answer is because Apple just doesn’t have to. It is their own service that they created for their users. Apple does not have a monopoly or absolute control over messaging services, and no one is being harmed, financially or otherwise, by Apple not allowing other platforms to access iMessage. The same features that iMessage offers can be found on Google Messages, and other messaging services. If a person wants access to iMessage, they only have to purchase an Apple device. While Apple’s products are known to be expensive, if access to iMessage is all a person wants, an older used or 2nd-hand Apple product can be purchased for a lot cheaper than Apple’s latest and greatest. So people are not without options for getting access to iMessage.
iMessage is part of what makes Apple products unique and separate from their competition. It is a feature that helps draw people into Apple’s software and hardware ecosystem. Similarly, but less serious, KFC’s secret 11 herbs and spices is what makes their chicken different from their competition. Even more similarly, Tesla’s self-driving features in their cars is known to be one of the best, and makes them different than cars from Ford and GM. To the best of my knowledge, no senator is calling for KFC to give up their 11 herbs and spices to the little chicken shack down the street, and demanding Tesla hand over their self-driving tech to Ford, GM, or any other EV startup. Nor should they. Having a product, feature, or service that is unique and exclusive is what helps create and drive businesses. Is Apple only trying to protect profits by safeguarding iMessage? Maybe, but those profits are taxed by the same government demanding Apple give up what helps generate those profits. Furthermore, if all businesses have to share their secrets, particularly ones that that make them stand out, then nearly all businesses will be the same. Other than a name and a logo, there may not be anything to distinguish one product or service from another. If Apple eventually wants to allow open access to iMessage, they can certainly do that, but they should make that choice on their own, and not forced by the government.
Comments like Sen. Warren’s, are just an example of government trying to exert more control when they have no business doing so. As pointed out, people have access to messaging services. Ones that utilize encryption, have read receipts, typing notifications, and other features found in iMessage. They’re just not called iMessage, and if one wants iMessage, there are easy and inexpensive ways to get it. There doesn’t need to be government intervention to make sure all people have access to this company’s product.
I guess all this is to say, when government is calling for more regulation and control, try to be skeptical. It’s not always about making things fair for “the little guy,” or safe and easy for everyone to access, and even when it is, that doesn’t always mean it is right. No one is entitled to iMessage, there is no right to have messages be encrypted, and Apple is not obligated to provide their service to anybody who wants it. It is wrong and unnecessary for the government to try and change that. It should be left to Apple and the consumer to decide.