The communication divide between users of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, and Google’s range of Android devices, is shrinking. Google’s recent release of two new apps — Duo, a video chatting app, and Allo, a cross-platform messaging app — both support Apple’s iOS. This stands in contrast to Apple’s Facetime and Messages apps, which are only supported on iOS devices, effectively segregating them from the Android world.
Duo: Google’s answer to Facetime
The new video chat app, officially released August 16, highlights itself with one unique feature, called Knock Knock, which displays a live preview before a call is accepted. Although Duo is available to users of Apple’s iOS devices, the Knock Knock feature is currently only supported on Android. Google wrote in their official blog that the feature makes video calling seem more welcoming, as opposed to an interruption.
Other features sported by Duo include the ability to use phone numbers as contacts for video calls, end-to-end encryption of calls, automatic switching between the use of WiFi and mobile data for video streams, and the use of low-bandwidth optimization, which allows for the quality of the video stream to be adjusted based on network activity, and prevents calls from dropping. Duo does, however, currently lack the ability to make conference-style calls to multiple recipients at once — features supported by Apple’s Facetime and Microsoft’s Skype apps.
Allo: The cross-platform hybrid messaging app
Google’s brand new instant messaging app, released on September 21, boasts perhaps the most extensive list of features of any messaging app to date. One feature which helps bridge the communication gap is the ability for messages sent in Allo to be automatically converted to SMS, free of charge, and delivered to users who don’t have Allo installed on their device. This allows Allo users to use it as their preferred messaging app even if their recipient doesn’t wish to install the app on their device.
Taking advantage of Google’s innovative artificial intelligence technology, Allo includes a feature called Smart Reply, which uses predictive analytics to study how you send messages and makes suggestions that attempt to emulate your style of reply, which can be sent with a single button press. This feature is further enabled by personal assistant features, which work in a similar way to Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.
Replies generated by Smart Reply can include animated stickers, similar to Facebook Messenger’s. Other style-related features include “Whisper Shout,” which allows users to increase or decrease the size of messages in an effort to signify volume, and the ability for users to draw on pictures before they are sent.
Allo’s Incognito mode and optional encryption
Taking a cue from the popular Snapchat app, Allo allows users to enter “Incognito mode,” a carryover from Google’s Chrome browser, which sends messages that are off the record, auto-destructing from both Google’s server after delivery, and the recipient’s device shortly after viewing. Messages sent in Incognito mode make use of end-to-end encryption.
The Allo app has been criticized by privacy advocates and security experts for not applying end-to-end encryption by default to messages not sent in Incognito mode. While this encryption can be enabled to cover all messages, some say the decision to have it disabled by default can still lead to scenarios where privacy and security are violated. Critics include famous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who criticized the app on Twitter, referring to the app without encryption enabled as “Google Surveillance,” in part because of US foreign intelligence courts’ refusal to deny any surveillance requests.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 21, 2016
In April of 2015 Google announced that they would give search rank preference to sites that were mobile friendly (responsive, you can use Googles test page to check your site) and that had a secure certificate. Secure certificates create a “Secure Sockets Layer” or SSL- the lock or green bar, or HTTPS you see in the browser address bar.
Installing SSL’s can be a pain, and it’s another product domain registrars and hosting companies and the certificate issuers can charge you more for. Our solution at Next Wave Hosting is to become a partner with CloudFlare– that provides a workaround that provides SSL without a certificate and without additional cost to our clients.
But- if you want to learn the reasoning behind Google’s move- you can watch this 45 minute video where two of their engineers explain it pretty convincingly without getting too geeky.
They want your site to be Secure By Default.
Their three main reasons for HTTPS:?
- People can’t listen in on conversations between your visitors and your site,
- They can’t tamper with the data
- They can’t impersonate the destination.
They also provide tips on installing secure certs and where to get them, and most importantly- how to fix your existing site so that your content and links all display properly.
We found the Search and Replace plugin for WordPress very handy. We had to look for hard coded internal links to
and turn those into relative links (within a site a link doesn’t need the full domain),
The lack of a leading slash means “Inside the current directory is a sub-directory named test, and inside that directory is a file named index.php“.
All of our video content- such as youtube.com links and the newer shorter ones youtu.be both had to be found that were http, and changed to https to properly display.
While all this may seem like a lot of work for you, in the end, you’ll be rewarded with higher search rank, peace of mind, and your customers will be more confident about their experience on your site.
If you need help moving over to HTTPS feel free to contact us.
Private messaging isn’t really private, at least not unless you encode it. The people at bittorrent know a little more than most do about privacy- and have released a product called “Bleep” which is their entry into true, encrypted private messaging. Of course, both you and your friend have to have the same app installed and figure out a way to find each other.
Bleep functions on a peer-to-peer (or P2P) model, meaning that the messages are being sent directly from one user to the next. Without a middleman, it’s virtually impossible to tell who is talking to whom, and what they are saying. It also offers end-to-end encryption, making sure that your conversation stays truly private.
To get started with Bleep, all that is required is choosing a nickname. You can share your Bleep key (under Settings:Profile) wherever you like: forum post, twitter page, etc. And no one will have any of your other details. Optionally, you can verify your email addresses and mobile numbers with Bleep, which will let your friends discover you through Bleep when they open an account.
In Your Hands, Instead of the Cloud.
Bleep’s logo represents a folded note – a message passed directly, hand-to-hand. In our implementation, we keep messages and the encryption keys for images stored on your local device, not the cloud. For messages and metadata, there is no server for hackers to target and because you hold the keys, images can’t be leaked to haunt you later. We’ve solved serverless peer-to-peer messaging, including the ability to get offline friends your messages when they come back online.
The problem with snapchat’s privacy was a simple screen grab could end your privacy- or taking a photo of the device with another device- Bleep brings new levels of security with its “whisper mode”
For parts of a conversation that you’d like to keep temporary, tapping “Go to Whisper” on your phone sends messages and pictures that disappear from devices after they’ve been viewed (25 seconds); holding shift on PC and Ctrl on Mac while hitting send does this on your desktop. You can switch back and forth between normal and whisper messages seamlessly, so you don’t lose the flow of your conversation.
Screenshot, or Not?
Whisper messages have additional protection for screenshots. If a friend manages to capture the screen, they won’t be able to capture who said what, since nicknames are blocked out. And if you forget who you’re whispering with, you tap the “eye” to display the nickname, but the conversation gets blurred. They can capture the conversation or the sender, but not both at the same time.
No matter what- the old maxim holds true- once it’s on the internet- it’s never private.