The founder of Pebble launched Beeper, a universal chat app that works with iMessage and others – TechCrunch

Decades ago, a program was called Trillian It provided a way for Internet users to interact with multiple IM networks, such as ICQ, AIM and MSN Messenger, in one window. Now, founder of Pebble and partner of Y Combinator Eric Migikovsky It revisits the concept, but this time with a focus on centralized access to modern chat apps. With our newly launched app, Pepper, Users can connect to 15 different messaging services, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Instagram, Twitter DMs, Messenger, Skype, Hangouts and more – even, through a few tricks, iMessage.

Migikovsky says he first came up with the idea of ​​a universal chat app while working on the pioneer of the Pebble smartwatch, before Obsession By Fitbit.

“We really wanted Pebble to be able to send iMessages, but we never could figure out a way to do so because there is no API for iMessage,” he explains. But Beeper’s idea came to light two years ago when he learned of a protocol called Matrix. „All Beeper is built on top of the Matrix, which is an open source encrypted and open messaging protocol,“ he says.

Migicovsky describes the Matrix as mostly a „hacker thing,“ but he thinks it’s starting to spread among developers. Essentially, Matrix provides an API that allows developers to connect to other chat networks using a „bridge“, which transfers messages back and forth from one side to the other.

„When I learned about it, I was like, ‘Hey, we can build a trillion using Matrix,“ says Migikovsky.

Image credits: Pepper

Migicovsky started working on Beeper as a side project with Tulare Asokan, Matrix contributor meets him in the Matrix chat room.

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To get Beeper (formerly called Nova) to work with all the different chatting apps, they had to build these communication ‘bridges’. This code is open source and available at Gitlab.com/Nova.

“We think it’s really important for people to know the code they’re running – so it’s completely open source. People can check it,” Migikovsky notes.

Because of this, people also don’t have to pay Beeper $ 10 a month to access the service. If they know what they’re doing, they can only run bridges on their own servers, if they choose to.

While every messaging platform has its own unique setting in Beeper, making iMessage work has been the most complicated. And the solution here is to some extent involved, to put it mildly.

In fact, Beeper is shipping its users an old, jailbroken iPhone (iPhone 4S, because it’s cheap) to serve as a bridge. It reads the code installed on iPhone and writes to the database file where your iMessages are stored. IPhone encrypts the messages with your private key and then sends them over the Beeper network. This means, Beeper, cannot read your messages, Migicovsky says.

This process allows Android, Windows, and Linux users to use iMessage. But it’s not the only way you can make Beeper work with iMessages. Mac users with an always-on device can instead choose to install the Beeper Mac app to act as a bridge.

Migikovsky says he’s not afraid of any lockdown or litigation attempts by Apple.

„What will they do?“ He asks rhetorically.

Even if Apple somehow stopped Beeper from providing disabled iPhones to users, the company could redirect its customers to getting their old iPhones off Craigslist instead. Meanwhile, the program itself is open source and works on the user’s home iPhone – so Beeper isn’t really „hacking“ the iMessage itself.

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„I think given the current climate of freedom of correspondence – I think it would be crazy for Apple to start a battle with its users,“ says Megikovsky. In addition, notes that the European Commission is the work On draft legislation similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requiring all companies to open messages to other platforms.

Migikovsky notes: „When that passes, they will not be legally able to stop people from doing something like Beeper.“

Image credits: Pepper

Of course, Beeper isn’t the first company or startup to focus on trying to hack an iMessage lock. Other apps have tried to do this in the past, like AirMessage or WeMessageFor example. However, they have seen only limited accreditation. And Beeper isn’t the only startup trying to centralize chatting apps – Texts.com It is developing a similar system.

Beeper’s subscriptions, however, were larger than Migicovsky expected, he says, despite his refusal to share the details. He says Beeper is slowly qualifying users as a result. (For this reason, we have not been able to actually use Beeper. We cannot talk about its claims or usability.)

Despite the competition, Beeper may have an advantage in understanding what makes a great user experience. Pebble, after all, Sold More than 2 million hours.

Today, Beeper promises features like search, snooze, archive, and reminders, and works across macOS, Windows, Linux‍, iOS and Android platforms.

In the long run, Migicovsky envisioned a platform that could do more than just text, share media, stickers, and emojis like other chatting apps. Instead, the team is building a platform that allows people to build more tools and apps on top of Beeper – a system that’s a bit like Gmail plugins. For example, there may be tools that allow users to schedule calendar events from within their conversations. Or maybe the tool can help you see the latest messages that you have received with a specific user across different platforms, such as Cleart.

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Megikowski also declined to provide details of how the work on Beeper would be funded but when asked if Beeper could be the next step for him – as in a new company to work on – he replied, „It is likely.“

„I’m enjoying my time at YC. It’s cool. All of the companies I work with have inspired me to do this. Part of being a VC is talking to all of these founders building and launching cool things. And I just felt a little jealous,“ he admits.

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