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November 7, 2019 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Across the US, people received text messages that were originally sent on Valentine’s Day Something strange is happening with text messages in the US right now. Overnight, a multitude of people received text messages that appear to have originally been sent on or around Valentine’s Day 2019. These people never received the text messages in the first place; the people who sent the messages had no idea that they had never been received, and they did nothing to attempt to resend them overnight.
posted by 1970s Antihero (84 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Aaaaaaand... I still didn't get a Valentine.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:14 AM on November 7 [40 favorites]


Whole bunch of confusing "You Ups" going around. So glad I'm not dating anymore.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:18 AM on November 7 [13 favorites]


This is some low-rent Vonnegut bullshit, 2019.
posted by Etrigan at 11:18 AM on November 7 [78 favorites]


Your periodic reminder that the phone carriers store archives of your SMS messages. Probably your photos, too. At least for months, if not for years or forever. They're quite willing to give them to law enforcement with the appropriate form of request, too.

Vaguely related; in the US the Android messaging situation is a shitshow right now with the carriers fighting Google about a unified RCS. Apple iPhone users are pretty much entirely using iMessage talking to each other. Android users are using some messy mix of old school SMS, carrier pseudo-RCS, and real RCS. It mostly works but it's not great, but the carriers have enough power they've stopped Google from just unifying everything.
posted by Nelson at 11:19 AM on November 7 [16 favorites]


Your periodic reminder that the phone carriers store archives of your SMS messages. Probably your photos, too. At least for months, if not for years or forever.

All US carriers keep the content only until the message is delivered. The metadata is usually kept for 1-7 years depending on the carrier.

$20 says this was an SMSC that couldn't deliver the messages for whatever reason, the fault that stopped initial delivery resolved itself, and the SMSC dutifully delivered the messages.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 11:28 AM on November 7 [8 favorites]


I received one today that just says 'Page From 907' and thought it was just some weird spam until I saw this post. Then suddenly it all clicked.

On the plus side, I'm happy because it turns out she didn't leave me in February because I didn't wish her a Happy Valentine's. On the minus side, the only other storage unit available is 807 and I don't want to cart all our (well, 'my' now I guess) stuff down a flight of stairs.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:29 AM on November 7 [7 favorites]


"Thou knowest not, my dim-witted friend
The picture thou hast made
Thy vacant brow, and thy tousled hair
Conceal thy good intent
Thou noble upright truthful sincere,
And slightly dopey gent

You're my funny valentine,
Sweet comic valentine"
posted by clavdivs at 11:32 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Oh I'm so glad there's an explanation!!!
posted by ChuraChura at 11:43 AM on November 7 [6 favorites]


I didn't think this article would have me crying at my desk but here we are.
posted by BeginAgain at 11:46 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


One of my friends got what seemed like creepy messages from an abusive ex, so that's fun.
posted by miratime at 11:48 AM on November 7 [11 favorites]


I got a text from a coworker at 2:30 am and thought it was weird. We laughed about it this morning.
posted by soelo at 11:48 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


I got a text from my wife at 5:00 AM reminding me of our daughter's piano lesson. The kid hasn't had piano lessons since earlier this year. Mystery solved!
posted by NoMich at 11:51 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Yep. Happened to me. Texts sent to my husband and my former boss. I don't know if anyone else got any. It was very confusing and because they both got texts from me, I thought my phone was dying or something.
posted by cooker girl at 11:54 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


the carriers have enough power they've stopped Google from just unifying everything.

On the whole, given how Google eventually kills off the tech it acquires from others, that's probably a good thing.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:59 AM on November 7 [7 favorites]


This happened to me. My sister's mother-in-law apparently texted me something about not hearing back from my dad. However months earlier she had mixed up our phone numbers (we have the same name) and was finishing the conversation we started back then.

That text arrived at 2:30 am. I had forgotten the earlier conversation and assumed she meant she couldn't get a hold of my dad, who lives by himself, and panicked thinking I had to go check on him.
posted by likethemagician at 12:02 PM on November 7


Oh hey, that explains the weird message from this morning. I never would have guessed other people were having the same thing happen.
posted by Akhu at 12:21 PM on November 7



Vaguely related; in the US the Android messaging situation is a shitshow right now with the carriers fighting Google about a unified RCS.


Oy. tell me about it. Forget about Google Fi phones working for international text. 10 years of tmobile international travel, never any problems with text. Switch to Fi..... I was traveling and sending (plain!) texts from the USA and UK and it was a fucking coin toss whether they would get through.

I had to switch to WhatsApp to contact UK people; they only had texting or whatsapp. And I FUCKING hate facebook. But at least WhatsApp has the verification system where you can see if the text is received by WhatsApp, received by their phone and read...

grrrrrr.
posted by lalochezia at 12:30 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


the carriers have enough power they've stopped Google from just unifying everything.

No, Google snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when it decided out of nowhere to kill Hangouts (or pivot it to an "Enterprise" Slack-like clone or whatever their dumbfuck idea was). They had a perfect good over-the-top service with a huge userbase, perfectly sufficient to dictate terms to the carriers, courtesy of building it into Gmail back in the late pre-smartphone era, and although they needed to add some key features to it to make it competitive—encryption in particular—they decided to be stupid and try to get everyone to switch to Allo and that other app nobody remembers anymore.

The mess with RCS is entirely of Google's own making. Android's messaging situation sucks because Google is a shitty platform steward, full stop.

The carriers may be stepping on Google's toes, but not before Google took careful aim and blew a whole bunch of them off with a shotgun of their own making.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:32 PM on November 7 [21 favorites]


(erm, got a random truncated sms over here in Europe too, today... not seeing any reports about anything system-wide here, though.)
posted by progosk at 12:34 PM on November 7


I'll be curious to see the post-mortem to find out what single bottleneck/black box caused these to not be delivered and why. If we ever get to find out. It's weird that it seems to be platform and network agnostic, so it's something deeper than that. I wonder if the NSA backbone trap that was supposed to be scraping metadata had a blip and held on to these, and someone finally rebooted that instance for maintenance today and oops there goes a wave of undelivered SMS.
posted by msbutah at 12:38 PM on November 7 [9 favorites]


Ah, this explains the message I received this morning from someone who is now deceased. I was wondering if the phone had been passed on to a family member who had not updated their entry. Makes more sense that it's a glitch.

And side note that I love Metafilter and its group expertise: this post and the question yesterday about possible browser hacking have solved questions it hadn't even occurred to me to check here about.
posted by beaning at 12:39 PM on November 7 [8 favorites]


No, Google snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when it decided out of nowhere to kill Hangouts

Then proceeded to put a bullet in Allo, the Hangouts replacement. You don't get to see companies cede a market through sheer ineptness and stupidity but wow, Google just went all "hold my beer".
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 12:40 PM on November 7 [8 favorites]


I think this was a terrorist attempt to break up every couple in the United States with giant You-didn't-even-text-me-on-Valentine's day vs. You-didn't-even-reply-to-my-Valentine's-text fights going on all over.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:47 PM on November 7 [11 favorites]


A friend of mine got into a huge fight with her ex today because he got some emojis from her last night after midnight and he thought she wanted to hook up. I sent this to her and we're both laughing so hard. This needs to go out as a PSA or something I can't imagine the confusion.
posted by Bacon Bit at 12:48 PM on November 7 [26 favorites]


All Google needed, all anyone ever wanted, was iMessage on Android. Rich stuff for like minded users of the platform, fall back to MMS then SMS if all else fails. End to end encryption of messages to keep it private and provide the experience in the default messaging app. That’s all they needed to do. Why they haven’t accomplished this in the 8 years since Apple released iMessage has been one of the biggest failures in tech history.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 12:50 PM on November 7 [18 favorites]


This needs to go out as a PSA or something I can't imagine the confusion.

I sort of wonder if a followup blast to any receiving number, some version of "hey heads up you may have received a message originally sent nine month ago due to a technical issue that is now resolved", would be doable. It really does feel like something where the overlap of people affected and people reading about the issue is going to be deeply incomplete.
posted by cortex at 12:56 PM on November 7 [7 favorites]


I don't know what happened, but I know that somewhere deep in the bowels of some god-awful middleware there's a line of Java code that says:
} catch (Exception e) {
  // operation failed, continue processing
  // BTW, I choo-choo-choose you
}
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:01 PM on November 7 [31 favorites]


Mine came in at 430am and was from a coworker about rebooting an unspecified system. I generally trust this coworker and thought it was possible he was working on an emergency with someone else and had texted me by accident. I sent a message back asking which system is he rebooting. In the morning I got a reply asking what in the hell I was talking about. I just forwarded this article to him and we're all having a good laugh.
posted by cmfletcher at 1:12 PM on November 7 [8 favorites]


I think this was a terrorist attempt to break up every couple in the United States with giant You-didn't-even-text-me-on-Valentine's day vs. You-didn't-even-reply-to-my-Valentine's-text fights going on all over.

Of all the days to have this fuckup on.... Makes me glad I was single (as usual) on the day.

The messages from the dead is even worse(?).
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:22 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


This affected my household in a thankfully amusing way.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:25 PM on November 7


All US carriers keep the content only until the message is delivered. The metadata is usually kept for 1-7 years depending on the carrier.

That's correct and my previous assertion that cell phone carriers kept SMS text is probably wrong. That was true back in 2004, although even then they said they weren't storing text. (Somehow they were still able to produce text when subpoenaed). The ACLU engaged this question head-on in 2010 with FOIAs to the DoJ. At that time text message content was not kept for more than a few days (if at all); but the metadata about who texted whom and when was kept for years. I haven't found anything to say otherwise. Note all this is for the US only, no idea in other countries.

The RCS / Android / carrier SMS snafu is a bit of a derail and I apologize for interjecting it, it deserves a whole post of its own. Google's inability to run one reliable text message product is certainly well known. Rich Communication Services seems better though, a genuine international standard, with enough federation that the service isn't at the mercy of one provider (as iMessage is). The details of its rollout or lack thereof in the US are complex and ugly. Suffice it to say all the companies are acting in what they see as their best interest and consumers are left with a shitty mess. Apple's monopoly approach really seems to be better for consumers right now, although maybe some day we'll have an open system with RCS that doesn't suck.

(An aside for anyone suffering along with Android like me; messages.google.com provides a reasonably good web view to your text messages. It works by communicating directly with your phone to get the data, it's not a hosted service the way iMessage is.)
posted by Nelson at 1:26 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


I got a rock.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:30 PM on November 7 [29 favorites]


Explains the lone "?" I got from the owner of a New Orleans Airbnb I stayed in back at Mardi Gras time.
posted by me3dia at 1:30 PM on November 7 [9 favorites]


This explains a weird random message I got last night from a friend who was staying in town that weekend.
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:38 PM on November 7


Google is a shitty platform steward, full stop.

Amusingly, this is largely due to their unbelievably terrible promotion system; people are rewarded for launching new things (new features, new algos, new whatever) and then receive zero encouragement to maintain that new thing.

...so, if you want to optimize your career path (and, let's be charitable, most Google employees are huuuge optimizers), your best path is to launch something "big" (whatever "big" means at your current level), then go up for promotion, coast for a quarter or two, then leave to find a new team, abandoning your past big project. Next person in the chair does the same thing, frequently un-launching your thing in favor of their slightly superior thing, and away we go.

Rinse, repeat.

This is true even at the Director/VP level, which is why the Google messaging strategy is nonexistent; every couple of years an L7 wants to get promoted so they create a new "strategy" and launch it. Then they leave, and a couple years later another L7 wants to get promoted so they change strategies again. They seem to be utterly powerless to change their promo system, and it's been fucking them over for years. Everyone knows it, everyone hates it, but nothing changes.

I think it's akin to hazing, to be honest. Hazing that you have to actively choose to endure (past L4 you don't have to go up for promotion if you don't want), which means Stockholm syndrome runs amok. Don't even get me started on their absurdly terrible PMs. It's a testament to the power of engineering persistence that they ever manage to do anything that isn't deeply stupid.
posted by aramaic at 1:51 PM on November 7 [42 favorites]


Oh my GOD! Thank you for posting this! It explains why I got a 10pm text from my out-of-town friend asking if her and her husband could crash at my place.
posted by redsparkler at 2:31 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


I woke up this morning to a text from grumpybearbride about... crackers? She somehow remembered that text not going through. It did seem too coherent to have been a sleep text...
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:32 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I've mostly been reduced to using SMS these days since the death of Hangouts and Google giving us nothing else to use. I've had texts take an hour to get through but never half a year.
posted by octothorpe at 2:34 PM on November 7


Google is a shitty platform steward, full stop.

The platform Google care about is serving Ads, you cant stuff video ads into an SMS message, so they don't care about it.
posted by Lanark at 3:03 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


According to this article, a third party contractor "Syniverse" sent out 168,149 messages after maintenance kicked a box.
posted by msbutah at 3:07 PM on November 7 [6 favorites]


Well, that explains the text I got on Valentine's Day telling me that Sondland had changed his testimony.
posted by kyrademon at 3:07 PM on November 7 [17 favorites]


Google is a shitty platform steward, full stop.

The platform Google care about is serving Ads, you cant stuff video ads into an SMS message, so they don't care about it.


Pre-smartphone (and briefly post) Google let you do SMS text based Google searches and would send back a list of results (including local business searches). It would have been trivially easy to put sponsored results at the beginning of that list. Admittedly not video, but they could've done video / MMS ads.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:10 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Apple iPhone users are pretty much entirely using iMessage talking to each other. Android users are using some messy mix of old school SMS, carrier pseudo-RCS, and real RCS.

One more time, for people in bubbles of all colors: Signal.
posted by The Bellman at 3:18 PM on November 7 [11 favorites]


That's a funny way to spell WhatsApp but sure, yeah, third party messaging apps are great. (And I greatly prefer Signal, it's the odds-on favorite for the most secure and user-friendly of the choices.) The problem is none of these services is universal. SMS works for pretty much everyone with a cell phone. SMS + iMessage is more or less universal too, with some irritating edge cases. SMS + RCS is also universal but only because much of the time it falls back to SMS.
posted by Nelson at 4:11 PM on November 7


Hmm, so I just installed Signal and within couple of minutes got a message from friend saying "welcome to Signal". Apparently it broadcasts to all of your contacts when you install it. For an app that supposedly values privacy, that's a pretty shitty thing to do.
posted by octothorpe at 4:14 PM on November 7 [25 favorites]


Signal was better when it was TextSecure and could actually secure your SMSes if you felt the metadata that remained in the clear wasn't a problem in your personal threat model.
posted by wierdo at 4:15 PM on November 7


And that's not actually how it works, octothorpe. Happily, their website explains quite clearly how contact discovery works without being the blatant privacy leak that it first appears to be. There are people in this world who have thought about exactly these issues and have documented everything for your review.
posted by wierdo at 4:17 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


My friend said that he got a notification on his phone that I'd joined Signal. I'm super pissed about that.
posted by octothorpe at 4:21 PM on November 7 [19 favorites]


Signal's blog: The Difficulty Of Private Contact Discovery
posted by ao4047 at 4:26 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I had Signal briefly installed and then quickly got rid of it for a similar reason. I was pulled into a group chat for my area without any sort of warning or consent. Our phone numbers were all displayed to each other along with a few confused messages before I quit the group. I think what happened is that after installing the app, someone had added their contact list for my city to a group chat. It felt super invasive and annoying.

When I tried it, anyone who had your phone number could tell if you were on Signal or not and that was a dealbreaker for me. That blog post just above feels like it's coming at it from the complete wrong direction when it says "The problem becomes: How do we determine which contacts are registered with a service, without revealing the contacts to the service?" Because even if someone reveals their contact list to Signal and I am in it, why the hell would I want them to confirm I'm using it?

I think I probably just fundamentally misunderstood the point of Signal. I was thinking it was a secure communication tool when the first sentence of that blog post is "Building a social network is not easy."
posted by ODiV at 5:21 PM on November 7 [11 favorites]


It's terrifying that all the cities/regions around me are using such an outdated, obsolete, unreliable protocol to send their emergency notifications.
posted by meowzilla at 5:29 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


The Signal blog post above was from 2014. This updated post from 2017 describes how their system now works without anyone revealing their contact list to the Signal service.

I wouldn't describe Signal as a "social network" but it has to solve a similar problem, since sending a message to your friend requires the app on your phone to know whether your friend is on Signal or not. The way Signal deals with this is that anyone who knows your phone number can discover that you are on Signal and can send you Signal messages. This means you don't need to hand out a separate Signal username or exchange "friend requests" before people can contact you. But yes, the trade-off is that people with your phone number can see (and even get automatically notified) that you have Signal.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:31 PM on November 7 [6 favorites]


Right yes, I didn't meant to imply that they are asking people to reveal contact lists. Just that I wouldn't want them confirming anything one way or the other, which they do.
posted by ODiV at 5:34 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


My friend said that he got a notification on his phone that I'd joined Signal. I'm super pissed about that.

Same, but mildly annoyed. Apparently what happened was any and all of my contacts (1,500? Maybe?) were notified, if they have Signal, so, like... 10? Plus whatever cops or spies.

What shifted this from making me mad to amusing me is that I installed it at the request of a politically engaged activist friend, and the first message I received on it was from another politically engaged activist friend, one of whom has opted out of most other forms of digital jibba-jabba channel. I guess they feel more... secure, or something? Hiya, Feebees! Howya doin, Ensa? whut up, Icey? I do believe I See I A spy in the back of the roooooom? Yo yo yo my peepers!
posted by mwhybark at 6:04 PM on November 7


Plus, Darlene on “I, Robot” totes hacked Signal’s API back in alternate 2015 such that Elliott was pinging her with geoloc data for, like, the most recent two episodes. So there’s that too.
posted by mwhybark at 6:06 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I've been using telegram on android, and I think it is nicer than my stock messaging app.
I'm mostly texting one human being and one bot (scihub bot!), so my needs are modest. When my wife installed it on her phone, I did not receive any kind of notification.

I mostly like how easy it is to send a little video. Getting to see the silly baby antics I'm missing at work is making it a little bit more bearable to be away.
posted by Acari at 6:31 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Ohhhhhh.

I got a surprise 2 factor message for my gmail account at 2:30am.

I freaked out that I was being SIM jacked and changed all my passwords, so at least I got that done.
posted by Horkus at 7:07 PM on November 7 [7 favorites]


Do people in the USA still use SMS? Interesting. Over here (South Africa) SMS is only used by banks and spammers. Everyone else uses WhatsApp or Telegram.
posted by Zumbador at 7:40 PM on November 7


I'm really confused about all these comments about Hangouts being dead. I use it with my family all the time. Is there some major feature that got killed?
posted by straight at 8:03 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Hangouts itself is going corporate. GSuite users have lost Hangouts Classic, replaced with Google's Slack-a-like and the consumer version is getting the bullet in June 2020. Another product for the Google graveyard.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:09 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


That's a funny way to spell WhatsApp but sure...

And that is a funny way to spell Facebook, which is why I wouldn't mention it in the same breath!
posted by The Bellman at 8:22 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


My missing text was to a friend, and it said, "BEST VALENTINE'S DAY EVER," because I'd just heard that Amazon was pulling out of NYC :)
posted by unknowncommand at 8:31 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Does anyone outside the US still use SMS?

Say what you will about WhatsApp and its ownership, it’s genuinely the most universal messaging platform out there (if part of your definition of “universal” is “people that I want to reach actually have it”)
posted by mosst at 11:12 PM on November 7


Do people in the USA still use SMS?

Does anyone outside the US still use SMS?


From my experience, only the US is using SMS. I have accidentally sent SMS through siri and they dont even go through for most people. (I live in Germany). When friends in the US ask how to get in touch with me and I tell them WhatsApp, they tell me thats what they use to contact their foreign clients.
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:16 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Apple iPhone users are pretty much entirely using iMessage talking to each other.

And good luck trying to talk to your friend if you both have iPhones and youve got data turned off. For instance, because you're on holiday in the US with your British phone and roaming data is charged per megabyte. If you're in a mobile phone black spot and you try to send an iMessage, it'll happily fall back to SMS. But if you've got data turned off (and you're not on wifi) and you try to send an iMessage... you can't. It disables the Send button. There is no way to tell it to send the message as an SMS. Ongoing problem for years now; I suppose we should think ourselves lucky it's still possible to turn off mobile data at all.

Does anyone outside the US still use SMS?

Yep. I'm in the UK. I get unlimited free SMSes with my PAYG phone non-contract, so I use iMessage to iPhone users and SMS to everyone else. I also get texts from my doctor, the window cleaner, and various other service providers. If my friends are using WhatsApp (I've never asked, so I have no idea), they don't seem to see it as an issue that I haven't signed up for it myself.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:17 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


Food delivery services and the like still use SMS.

Sending? Not often.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:35 AM on November 8


I'm in Australia. I use Signal, and I don't care at all about other people who already have my phone number being notified that it also works via Signal as soon as they sign up.

Signal's servers don't have access to my contacts list, which is something I would care about and is in fact the main reason I never signed up to Fascbook all those years ago. As far as I'm concerned, the more people switch to Signal the less insecure all of us will get; to the extent that knowing they can reach me that way operates as an incentive to do so, I'm all for it.

That said, Signal is also set as my phone's default SMS/MMS handler, and most of the incoming messaging I read with it does arrive in one of those formats.
posted by flabdablet at 4:04 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Does anyone outside the US still use SMS?

Yeah, pretty common in the UK. Data is expensive and not reliable here in all areas. SMS is reliable, dependable, generally free or all but, and doesn't decide to just not work if you're in an area with no 3G. Actual telephony services are much more reliable than Internet service here in my experience, and I would not want to move over to something that relies on Internet access.
posted by Dysk at 4:58 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Also also, a meaningful proportion of my mates don't have smartphones, so it's SMS or nothing.
posted by Dysk at 5:02 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I'm not in the US or the UK and the only SMSs I get are either spam or from the bank. It's mostly the same for everyone I know.
posted by omegar at 5:16 AM on November 8


Is WhatsApp not big in the US or am in just in a bubble because I've never known a single person to use it or even mention it.
posted by octothorpe at 5:24 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Oh and the other factor is, a lot of people here are on pay-as-you-go, where it is free for them to receive texts (and often to send them), but they need to pay for data. Which means they can't even receive your signal or whatever messages if they're out of credit.
posted by Dysk at 5:26 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


The timelines are merging!
posted by BeeDo at 5:42 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Is WhatsApp not big in the US or am in just in a bubble

You are in a US bubble. WhatsApp is huge in much of the rest of the world. It has 1.6B users, the single biggest messaging population. More statistics here, including data on SMS etc broken out by country.

And as usual we're all ignoring the biggest user base in the world, China. Which thanks to language barriers and trade protectionism has its own ecosystem. WeChat is also enormous, 1B+ users, and isn't just a chat app. It's also a mobile payments platform and a bunch of other things, it's basically Tencent's platform for reaching consumers for its entire business.

PS: a few people here have mentioned Telegram. If you have a choice you are better off using almost anything else, it's had a lot of security design flaws. Signal is an excellent alternative. As always though, most people are just going to use what their friends use.
posted by Nelson at 7:37 AM on November 8


Did some searching on WhatsApp after I posted that. Seems like it never caught on in the US because texting rates are cheap here and most people don't need to text internationally
posted by octothorpe at 7:43 AM on November 8


Would you call this a... St Valentines Day Messagacre?
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 7:52 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Update November 8th, 11:20AM ET: This story has been updated with information about Syniverse taking blame for the message delays.
Syniverse said a single server was at fault: that server failed on February 14th, trapping messages waiting to be sent out; the server was only brought back online on November 7th. When that happened, all of the messages were finally delivered.

Syniverse initially published a note saying that 168,149 delayed messages were sent. A spokesperson later told The Verge that the company is “still assessing the scope and volume of messages impacted by this server disruption.”
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:30 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


WhatsApp is huge in Europe and is how all our overseas friends communicate with us when they or we visit each other. It gets around SMS, is pretty awesome at group chat, it is easy to share pics, and the iOS integration is well done. I'd be curious to know about security issues from experts in the field (and not online armchair types with opinions) but otherwise it seems like everything iMessages could and should be, for what I would look for in a global messenger app.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:44 AM on November 8


AFAICT there are no extant security holes in WhatsApp, although of course it's hard to say for sure, because if you did discover one you'd be a fool to immediately disclose it, when you could sell it to one of those creepy Israeli companies for fuck-you money.

WhatsApp, iMessage, and Signal all offer end-to-end encryption, and seemingly offer about the same level of protection against network snooping. (Whatsapp uses the Signal protocol IIRC.) They are all broadly vulnerable to metadata analysis (someone collecting records of what messages you sent when, and what messages someone else received and when, and then correlating the two). I think you would have a very hard time arguing that one is better right now than the other, particularly vs. passive snooping, and I'm not aware of anyone with significant stature who has said that.

The differences are in the organizations behind each piece of software, which is rather important given the ability on most modern operating systems for the software vendor to push updates to clients basically at-will. That's probably the dominant reason why many security-conscious people prefer Signal: it has a noncommercial organization behind it which has less economic attack surface than a big multinational corporation like Facebook (or even Apple).

Bruce Schneier touches on this potential vulnerability in his followup to an article about Whatsapp (not actually) implementing client-side message scanning. It turns out Whatsapp didn't do anything nefarious, and they promise really hard not to, but there's no particular guarantee that Facebook might not decide it's in its best commercial interests to sell out its users privacy at some point, and it would only take a software update to do it.

That's why you see a lot of recommendations (including Schneier) recommending Signal; it's not so much about the technology but about what organization you want to trust.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:04 PM on November 8 [6 favorites]


Nelson you are absolutely on point, Signal is basically better than RCS would be, even if it worked. I think the only advantage RCS might have is that it would presumably work on feature phones/without data, but I'm not sure about that. Also it has encrypted phone and video calls, which come in handy when you are talking to someone in an old building with bad cell service but good wifi.
posted by gryftir at 4:29 PM on November 8


As always though, most people are just going to use what their friends use.

So, be a good friend. Install Signal and let your friends know that it's going to be what you respond to most reliably when they need to contact you from now on. If they ask you why, you just say because fuck zuck, that's why, and leave it at that.
posted by flabdablet at 10:24 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


A la recherche du texts perdu?
posted by Snowishberlin at 3:31 PM on November 9 [1 favorite]


Syniverse said a single server was at fault

So I guess a lesson here is that you can be a text messaging relay company for major major companies without monitoring your servers or anything like that? Like nobody there thought "hey what's up with server 9? I haven't heard from it in a while" for nine months?
posted by rhizome at 3:38 PM on November 9 [1 favorite]


It's the worst parts of the old "pet" server model and the worst of the current "herd" server fashion all rolled into one. I suspect someone in management decided their conception of how servers should be deployed ought to change but didn't bother allocating time and funds to do anything beyond changing the drapes to make it look like something had been done. I suspect a large bonus was also involved somewhere in the chain of events.
posted by wierdo at 5:18 PM on November 9 [1 favorite]


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