For some people, the colour of your chat bubbles really matters – and on iOS and Mac, green means that you are Not One Of Us, because blue bubbles are reserved for Apple to Apple chats. A new app called Beeper changes that by enabling you to use iMessage on Android and appear to others as a blue bubble user.
It's not just about the bubble, of course. It's about the ability to use the platform of your choice to chat, and at the moment Apple limits its iMessage service to the Messages app on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. Beeper has found a clever way to get around that, delivering what's effectively Messages for Android.
Beeper isn't the same thing as the Sunbird iMessage hack that embarrassed Nothing with its potential privacy issues. Beeper doesn't have Macs in the cloud acting as a middleman between you and Apple; the app communicates directly with Apple's servers. Beeper says that means its communications are secure in a way they aren't with Sunbird – and it'll be publishing its source code so others can inspect it.
Will Apple go after Beeper?
Maybe. There's no doubt that Apple will be unhappy about Beeper: if Apple had wanted to bring iMessage to Android there would be an app for that. But it would probably be unwise for Apple to shut it down, even if that's technically possible, partly because the number of Beeper users is likely to be comparatively tiny, partly because doing so might cause problems for Apple owners, partly because it would almost certainly result in pretty bad PR, and largely because Apple is about to support RCS anyway.
RCS is an interoperability standard for instant messaging that will enable users of different platforms to share the same features in cross-platform chat such as reactions and higher quality photo sharing. And while Apple isn't embracing everything RCS can do, it'll be supporting enough features that the experience of chatting between iOS and Android or Mac and Android should be very similar.
The plan for Beeper, to make it a multi-service chat app, reminds me of a much older app I used to love: Trillian. Trillian is a multi-service instant messenger, and in the early 2000s that was pretty revolutionary: in a single app you could have MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AOL IM, Jabber and many more. It had a horrible interface but most apps did back then, and despite that it was still more elegant than my current desktop with its multiple messaging apps running 24/7. That's a bit of tech history I wouldn't mind repeating.