Google's Messaging Platforms

Google has really been in a tough spot with their messaging platforms over the last several years. As a consumer, it's been frustrating becaues they have so many different directions that they are constantly going, and have very little focus. It would be even more frustrating to me if I were an Android user and relied on these platforms for my every day messaging.

Google's default messaging app did not have the feature set that you would generally expect from a messaging platform, so Google has tried several things over the years. Hangouts was already a chat platform even before Android came around, and for a while Google tried to make hangouts integrate with Android better and be more of a messaging platform, but it was weird what you could or couldn't do. For a while, they didn't seem like they wanted to touch the default SMS app, and instead opted to work on a new product, called Allo. Allo was a great app that had a lot of really cool features, but the problem is no one seemed to care and very few people used it. In a blog post yesterday Google is trying to clear up their message and what they are doing going forward -

We want every single Android device to have a great default messaging experience. We’ve been working closely with the mobile industry to upgrade SMS so that people around the world can more easily enjoy group chats, share high-res photos, and get read receipts on any Android device. Thanks to partnerships with over 40 carriers and device makers, over 175 million of you are now using Messages, our messaging app for Android phones, every month.

In parallel, we built Google Allo, a smart messaging app, to help you get more done in your chats and express yourself more easily. Earlier this year we paused investment in Allo and brought some of its most-loved features—like Smart Reply, GIFs and desktop support—into Messages. Given Messages’ continued momentum, we’ve decided to stop supporting Allo to focus on Messages.

When iMessage came out on iPhone several years ago, I think it was pretty obvious that it was an advantage over Android. I didn't think that it would be an advantage for long though. Many features come out on one platform or the other first, but are quickly implemented by the other platform as well. iMessage seemed like an obvious thing to copy, but Google has so far really struggled to get their messaging platform off the ground.

In the same article, they talk about their enterprise messaging platforms. In the enterprise space, I think their message has been much more clear, however I think they are going in a really great direction. Until last year, business or enterprise users (using G Suite, Google's productivity Suite) would use Google Hangouts for both video calls and for chat. This was basically the version of Hangouts that people would use with their personal accounts, and didn't really offer business specific features. It was ok, but definitely felt out of place. Google has aggressively been working on more business/enterprise ready versions of all of their apps, and in the last year, Hangouts has received that treatment.

Google Hangouts Chat was released and is a new chat platform more on par with Slack or Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet was launched as a video conferencing platform. Google has been much more focused on this side of their business than they have been on the consumer messaging platform, and both products are pretty great, and continue to improve at a rapid clip.

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