Home Money Beeper Took On Apple’s iMessage Dominance. Now It’s Been Acquired

Beeper Took On Apple’s iMessage Dominance. Now It’s Been Acquired

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Beeper Took On Apple’s iMessage Dominance. Now It’s Been Acquired

During the early days of the pandemic, Migicovsky became fixated on fragmented messaging — the widely recognized fact that most people have to use a variety of different apps to stay in touch with their contacts. Migicovsky and Murray started building a service that would collect all messages into a single app container, using an open source, decentralized messaging protocol called Matrix.

But the holy grail for Migicovsky was creating SMS parity between Android and iOS. When an Android user sends a message to an iOS device, it normally appears as a green bubble, while blue bubbles are reserved for iMessage only. Beeper on Android would instead send secure, encrypted ‘blue bubble’ messages to iOS devices.

The standard version of Beeper used hundreds of Mac mini computers as relay points, so Android messages to iOS devices wouldn’t default to SMS. But Migicovsky and his team later created a forked “mini” version of their app that reverse-engineered the way iOS notifications work and made the messages flow between the Beeper app itself and iOS Messages. The blue bubble was reached. Migicovsky charged $2 per month for this Beeper Mini app at launch.

As soon as Beeper Mini was released in late November, Apple took steps to destroy it, citing security concerns. Migicovsky and his team tried to come up with solutions and made the app free in the meantime. But by the end of 2023, it was clear that Beeper Mini was an unsustainable product, even though Beeper had managed to raise awareness around Apple’s tight grip on its software.

In December, more than a dozen watchdog and digital rights organizations called on the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate Apple for anticompetitive behavior. The DOJ’s investigation into Apple has been a long time in the making, but earlier this month that lawsuit finally came to light — calling green bubbles an antitrust problem.

Beeper was ultimately more of a symbol of the challenges faced by startups challenging the entrenched interests of Big Tech than it was a standalone product. But Migicovsky insists he is not disappointed with the results. He will continue at Automattic as head of Beeper product, and he says he’s glad Beeper hasn’t been sold to a giant tech company. “I think this at least introduced a different philosophy around anti-competitive factors, like a company can have monopolies in some markets or specific parts of markets,” Migicovsky said.

Beeper’s reliance on an open source protocol, Matrix, also appealed to Automattic. While the use of the Beeper app was not widespread, it had managed to support more than a dozen different messaging platforms within the app. In this way, it’s similar to Texts, Automattic’s other messaging app, which collects messages from iPhone, WhatsApp, Signal, Messenger, Slack, and others all in one container.

Mullenweg said an interview with TechCrunch at the time of the Texts acquisition that he believes that too many technology services have become ‘closed’, and that ‘the pendulum is now swinging very hard in the other direction, towards more open standards.’ While WordPress is Automattic’s main product at the moment, Mullenweg said he thinks posts, not websites, could have a bigger impact in the long run.

At the very least, Beeper may live another day, which is more than many tech startups can say.

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