Five important steps in the journey of Google’s failed messaging app

Google Messages appSource: Android Central

Creating the best messaging app is a tough problem to tackle. Everyone is always looking for a unified way to stay in touch with friends and family, but with so many different services succeeding on different platforms and in different parts of the world, there isn’t everything. just no way to rally enough support around a single product to really solve messaging once and for all.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped Google from trying, and from Google Talk to Hangouts and RCS messaging, the company has seen a lot of success – and a lot of failures – over the years. Even some of Google’s closed messaging platforms, like Allo, ended up paving the way for much more successful products.

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We are certainly not at the finish line of courier services yet, if such a thing even exists. In the meantime, we wanted to take a look back at some of the major steps Google has taken on their journey to finally get in shape with a pretty successful messaging app.

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Google Talk The Catalyst

Google Talk on Windows

Google Talk on WindowsSource: Android Central

Talk was the service that started it all; at least for Google, anyway. Integrated directly with Gmail, Google Talk (often known as Gchat) was a simple messaging service launched in August 2005, based on the XMPP messaging protocol. This has made Talk compatible with other XMPP-based services, increasing the likelihood that somehow you and your friends will be able to communicate regardless of your preferred messaging platform. each part.

Google Talk was a successful messaging service for Google, gathering millions of users in its day. While its cross compatibility with other XMPP messaging apps was a huge plus, one of the best features of Talk was that it allowed Gmail users to make audio and video calls directly from the web interface. Gmail in their browser.

Of course, if you didn’t want to keep a window open for Gmail just to follow your friends, Google also offered a desktop client for Talk, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. As a longtime MSN Messenger fan, this is how I enjoyed Talk the most – and even today I keep a Telegram window open on the side of my web browser at all times. Old habits die hard.

Google Hangouts The Living Dead

Google Hangouts

Google HangoutsSource: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

Despite its runaway success, Google eventually ended Talk and started urging its users to switch to Hangouts instead. It’s hard to classify Hangouts as a particularly good or bad step in Google’s messaging journey; Seven years have passed since its launch, and while Hangouts has yet to be completely discontinued, it has been living in an awkward state of uncertainty for several years now.

Hangouts have something for almost everyone.

Hangouts was originally launched as part of Google+, the company’s now-defunct social network that aimed to take on Facebook and Twitter. Google’s messaging suite was notoriously convoluted back then, comprising Talk, Google+ Messenger, and Hangouts as three separate services for different types of messaging.

Finally, for the sake of simplification and to remain relevant and competitive with services such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, Google gradually merged its services into a single Hangouts service, eventually replacing Talk entirely and using its own proprietary messaging protocol, rather than XMPP.

Over the next several years, Hangouts has proven to be surprisingly resilient, outlining dozens of other products and services in the Google lineup. Hangouts acted as a kind of Swiss army knife for communications; In addition to supporting its own chat system, with multimedia support, video and audio calls, and encrypted messages, Google has also allowed users to direct their traditional SMS and MMS messages through Hangouts.

Integrating Google Voice into Hangouts

Integrating Google Voice into HangoutsSource: Android Central

Likewise, Google Voice users have benefited from tight integration with Hangouts, with the ability to use the phone number associated with their Voice account on other devices. You can take phone calls on your computer, even if your phone is halfway across the room, and send text messages through Gmail’s Hangouts interface.

For years, Hangouts seemed to be the perfect cross-platform, multi-device alternative to services like iMessage and Whatsapp, but as is often the case, the service became more and more crowded and Google began to focus on Hangouts to businesses. users, triggering the tumultuous downward spiral of the platform.

I remember the painstaking process of trying to convince all of my friends and family to switch to Hangouts, and this process made me hang on to Hangouts long past its apparent expiration date. I just didn’t want to start this whole ordeal over with a new platform. Still, as Google began to distribute many features of Hangouts to other newer services like Hangouts Meet and Allo, and even revive the Google Chat brand, the writing was clearly on the walls.

Hangouts is on the verge of extinction and has been for a while, but it was great service as long as it lasted.

Google Voice A smarter phone number

the voice of google

the voice of googleSource: Android Central

Google Voice was a revolutionary product for many at the time, allowing users to create a new phone number or transfer their existing number from an operator, then set up call forwarding to centralize that number to an unlimited number of people. ‘devices. Thanks to the Google Voice app, users can also send text messages from any device, including their computer, using the same phone number they have had for years.

Although support for MMS did not come until much later, Google Voice was a boon for users juggling multiple devices when it launched in March 2009. It was especially useful for businesses that needed to carry different phones for their work and personal use. Although it was initially rejected from Apple’s App Store, Google Voice eventually made its way to iOS, making it all the more accessible.

While it certainly doesn’t have the same spot in the spotlight as it once did and no longer enjoys tight integration into Hangouts or Gmail, Google Voice today lives as a stand-alone product that still allows for international calls of $ 0.01 per minute, and has even been extended to work with Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) accounts.

Google Allo The start of something big

Google Assistant in Allo

Google Assistant in AlloSource: Android Central

Allo may have been one of Google’s more ephemeral messaging products, but its influence can still be seen today, even in some of Google’s most popular services. Originally launched in September 2016, Allo was first introduced to Google I / O earlier that year. This proprietary service was apparently designed to replace Hangouts and help simplify Google’s confusing array of messaging apps, introducing fun new features like Whisper Shout, which let you swipe your finger up or down. on the Send button to enlarge or reduce a message.

This is also where we first saw Google introduce smart responses, and unlike Hangouts, Allo was tied to your phone number. More importantly, Allo introduced Google Assistant to the world, starting with an AI-based chatbot before becoming a massive standalone product that launched a series of smart speakers and other gadgets.

Allo hadn’t been around for a long time, and even in its prime I spent most of my time hanging on to Hangouts for my life. Still, without Allo, we might not have Google Assistant as we know it today, so I’m inclined to call it an overall victory.

Rich communication services Back to basics

RCS Chat

RCS ChatSource: Android Central

While, ultimately, the object of Google’s evolutionary mission with its messaging platforms has been to compete with Apple’s ubiquitous iMessage service, until recently there has been a fatal flaw in its approach. The beauty of iMessage, and the key to its success, is how little friction is involved in the whole process. You don’t need to download or sign up for specialized apps, or convince others to download them.

iMessage works so seamlessly because it is linked to your phone number and most importantly, integrated with the default messaging app in iOS. You don’t need to dig into your email settings to activate it; simply send a text to another iOS user and you’ll see the coveted blue bubble appear, complete with end-to-end encryption, high-resolution multimedia, and read receipts.

Google is finally taking the necessary measures to democratize messaging.

This type of frictionless approach is exactly what Google and others have sought to achieve with RCS, a collaborative communication protocol that, like iMessage, works right in your phone’s default SMS app and happens automatically. when messaging other RCS compatible phone numbers.

RCS has taken a while to take off and goes by many different names depending on your phone and messaging app, but this evolution of a specially designed chat app by Google has, in my opinion, been crucial to finally being successful. it’s clear. Messaging. Finally, Android users can simply text each other uncompressed images and videos and see read receipts just like iPhone users have been doing for years, all without the need for an app. particular or without fear that Google will close this application in a few years.

In some ways, it almost feels like Google has thrown in the towel. Hangouts is taking its final breaths, and as the revamped Google Chat is about to take its place, RCS just feels like the right decision to move forward. It’s universal, doesn’t require a special app, and there’s the slightest possibility that even Apple might one day support RCS.

Maybe after Hell froze.

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