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Google Duo, a simple 1-to-1 video calling app (googleblog.blogspot.com)
311 points by marban on Aug 16, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 364 comments



Why didn't they just update hangouts? I actually use hangouts for video calls with relative frequency, and I wish it was better adapted to changes in network speed like they say Duo is. I think it would be better if "Duo" was just integrated into hangouts as an update. I like hangouts because it allows me to use one app for voice, text and video.


Well it wouldn't be Google with any fewer than 4 semi-competing apps in their own portfolio.


My guess is Duo will be like Inbox competing with gmail. I am guessing here but I think Google is on to something around innovation. They are launching innovative future facing apps without the constraints of legacy systems. They will use this approach to figure out which features work and back port them into their legacy apps. Not a bad approach if it works.


But this requires you and all your friends to sign up to yet another system, with yet another account. "Try this app, at has some features that may or may not make it into Hangouts" is not a great sell for my friends.


True, but with Android's market share, it's pretty compelling to be able to do a "FaceTime" with anyone. That's the larger opportunity.

Many people have iPhones because of FaceTime. If Google can show that you can Duo anyone and it works as well, then they may switch, perhaps even to their very own Nexus devices.

I'm not sure I personally like this app because I'm on Android and I used to have an excuse to not FaceTime friends and family, haha. If they discover this Duo, I may get pressured.


> True, but with Android's market share, it's pretty compelling to be able to do a "FaceTime" with anyone. That's the larger opportunity.

Assuming it ends up on all Android phones. Which is a big assumption.


I believe Duo will be added to the next Android release. It will take awhile for devices to get of course, but that's a big advantage.


A feature coming to maybe a fraction of phones some day in the future several years too late is not "a big advantage."

It's as disadvantageous a spot as you can be in, and Google put themselves there by squandering their multiple previous big advantages.


There are over 1.4B Android devices worldwide. Over 13% are on the latest version. New Samsung device sales are strong. They own search and their app store.

How is that not a big advantage? Sure it's overdue, but they sold over 1.4B devices without it. It makes their offering more compelling to iOS users who've come to expect FaceTime.


I think the point of Duo isn't to require a signup. Your phone number is the only thing required which lowers the barrier. You still have to download it of course..


It's basically competition to WhatsApp, several years late. WhatsApp solved the messaging for masses, non-technical folks, parents and grandparents. Which is why its so popular.

my entire family and friends circle runs on WhatsApp. Photo sharing, video sharing, voice calls, video calls ... anything you can think of. And it does a good job, really good job. I have never interacted with WhatsApp and felt frustrated or lost.

The lack of desktop interface didnt feel like losing something becasue it was never there to start with.

given Google's history, I don't trust them to do a decent UI that works for everyone or the longevity.


You could also say that Google search was a few years too late because Yahoo! already solved that problem. Obviously they think they can do it better and have the resources to test that


Yahoo was turning away from search and towards portals. They made a bad bet and Google happened to be the next in line.

Several other search engines fizzled underneath Yahoo's reign, Google would've been no exception has it not been for Yahoo's miscalculation.


thankfully looks like this one doesn't need an account


There is no signing up or passwords. Just SMS verification code, like WhatsApp.


You don't even need a google account, just a phone number


But don't you need a Google account to download the app on the Play Store?


You don't need a Google account to download apps from the Apple Store. One of the major advantages to Duo is that it is cross-platform.


That's fine for an email client, but video chat requires network effect to be useful.


The network effect is portable when the identities are preserved across products. For example, Facebook's separating out of FB Messenger was done while preserving the already built-up network effect.


I would argue that its already not working. I remember a time when everybody I knew went to google for communications services. After a few years of domination Google started competing with itself and suddenly those of us who were willing to change found ourselves alone.


My guess it's an independent team inside Google decided "let's make a better facetime" and starting from scratch was easier than wrapping their heads around a several years old codebase.


Seriously. The entire Google Hangouts experience is extremely unfriendly and difficult to use. It's a great service, but the UX is awful. It's hard to get any non-technical person into a Hangouts call for the first time.


http://hangouts.google.com/start

That link can actually make it much easier for the use case you described. The url after it loads can be shared.


Absolutely and the experience in mobile is completely disjointed from the desktop experience. When and what it decides to log is also quite arbitrary.


Duo looks like it doesn't require a Google account; just a phone number - think WhatsApp.


AndroidPolice has an article today[1] that Hangouts has failed as an all-in-one messaging platform. They're going to focus it in on the enterprise - where usage is much more prevalent, apparently - whatever that means.

Hangouts is likely to become a Google Apps Slack competitor, I guess.

[1]: http://www.androidpolice.com/2016/08/16/google-planning-focu...


Also, the security aspect: Hangouts would get a bunch of backlash in the Enterprise world if they added the Allo type features to it. So they have pretty much to have separate systems for Enterprise vs Consumer if they want to integrate all the Google Now capabilities.


Many people/companies use hangouts for video conferencing because all of the solutions in the space suck in one way or another.


Hangouts is so clunky, I avoid using it. I'm excited about Duo because it's so minimalistic and just works. Great for quick video chats with parents.


I don't understand why they need to have different apps doing the same thing. I am on the same boat as you, using Hangouts for video calls quite frequently. Instead of releasing a new app like Duo, they should have first fixed performance issues with Hangouts and added this as an update. Then there is Allo. Google has weird thinking.


They probably want to focus hangouts on enterprise and Duo on consumer market


because Hangouts is going away ... search the Play store for Allo ...


I know these will be preinstalled on Android, but many friends and family use iOS and I will feel silly asking them to install Duo and Allo.

Hangouts is able to mix voice, video and text just fine. Why start requiring separate apps?

This is Google at its dumbest. They are squandering the small amount of momentum Hangouts has.


Google's communications strategy has been bafflingly dumb for years and years now. Almost my ENTIRE social network (that was on chat; this was before every part of society was "on the Internet") used to be on Gchat. That's a massive network-effects advantage that they had ages before anyone else did (including Facebook, but Facebook's network did surpass them with the ability to find someone by their face).

Almost a decade of inexplicably stupid product decisions later, they've squandered their hugely valuable lead (and then some). I can't imagine why anyone would go out of their way to use any Google product whose usefulness is at all dependent on network effects (I've completely ignored the launch of Allo and Duo and, years after everyone else, have pretty much moved to FB Messenger as my primary messaging app). This is a pretty chronic Google problem that I noticed both from the inside and outside: their engineering and design talent are incredible, but the people responsible for the product and marketing side are evidently really, really bad at what they do.

This is part of why products like GMail or Google Search do so well, and products like G+ so poorly: you could be the only person in the world using GMail and it would be just as useful (and well-designed), while the quality of products like G+ depend less on their quality _per se_ and more on network effects, which Google's product/marketing is clearly too incompetent to do well.


> This is a pretty chronic Google problem that I noticed both from the inside and outside: their engineering and design talent are incredible, but the people responsible for the product and marketing side are evidently really, really bad at what they do.

See, I don't even think it's marketing, it's Google not understanding what they already have and engineering a solution without a problem. Hangouts as an app on mobile is okay - I have qualms, but it works well enough. Hangouts on Desktop though is horrible, and it's integration into Gmail is frustrating at best (it took them a long time to get something as simple as status messages back to Hangouts after the switch). I get the impression Google saw what was happening with Slack and wanted Hangouts to be that (and also a successor to Wave); a persistent "better than email" communication method with every bell and whistle you could want for communication. But since Hangouts was released, they've removed the few fun social features, removed hangout plugins, and just took what was feature-rich and dumbed it down to the point where I wonder why I should have an entire separate page open dedicated to hangouts when even Skype is a more graceful solution with more functionality.

I really liked gChat when it was small and out of the way. I won't make the claim "everyone used it", but we certainly enjoyed in our GAFE environment as it was an appropriate intermediate between email and phone call.

Duo makes me ask the same question now - why do I want this as opposed to just Hangouts, unless video is going to be removed from Hangouts or only Duo is going to get improved performance updates. This seems like it could easily be a hangouts update instead of a standalone application, and Hangouts is already available cross-platform on iOS and Android, or via any modern web-browser.


Oh yes, Googles insistence to the horrible Chrome plugin (and ONLY chrome plugin, you're SoL if you want to use any other browser) instead of a slim desktop app like iMessage/Telegram is pretty much the reason why I've abandoned Hangouts.


I don't use a chrome plugin, hangouts works great inside gmail which I always keep open, or from https://hangouts.google.com/.


I mean, it's missing features like searching by name (there's a workaround by going to calls, putting in the name, and choosing SMS) and other things, but it's worth it to be able to type and copy paste texts.


You're aware Hangouts has a firefox plugin too right?


And there's hangouts.google.com if you just want to hit it on a web page...


How did I never know about this. How long has it existed?

Google is terrible at marketing what they have.


Not for 64-bit it doesn't.


This blogpost is probably the only marketing that'll happen.


>Hangouts on Desktop though is horrible

Can you please elaborate on why you think so? I feel the exact opposite I guess. Maybe it is because it was horrible before and I', using a newer version?

It is one of the most unobtrusive and great apps I've used. It sits in the corner of my screen[0] and I have no problems at all even when I'm chatting (texting too! Google Voice!) with someone[1].

[0]:https://imgur.com/a/szw0C [1]:https://imgur.com/a/g0VsZ


I use hangouts on a daily basis for our remote team and also found the desktop app to be terrible to the point of avoidance when doing video calls.

Many times at least one person invited via desktop app doesn't receive the invite, but do receive if we send via gmail.

Confusing UI, lack of error messages, and several major UI bugs (press button, nothing happens) have been cause for hours of accumulated wasted time.

I'm glad you'be had a better experience. It's been very unreliable for us.


Oh. I guess I don't experience those a lot because I use it for texting and the occasional phone call, but do see some problems which I ignore because they're rare in my use case.


> This is a pretty chronic Google problem that I noticed both from the inside and outside: their engineering and design talent are incredible, but the people responsible for the product and marketing side are evidently really, really bad at what they do.

The people designing Google products just do not understand human interaction. Excuse the Gawker network link, but I think this reaction to a past Google keynote hits the nail on the head.

http://gizmodo.com/5921823/does-google-have-any-social-skill...


yep, that piece hits it right on the head.


Yeah I remember early years gchat all my social network was using that for chatting, because you always had the email open anyway when on a browser and a chat right there was just too convenient.

Also, centralized chat history! Very few did that at the time and most had massive issues with unread tracking.

The moment I went on mobile and tried hangout it was dead to me. Read notification duplicates, phantom notifications for read messages, long startup times, and group everything came mich much later

Everyone jumped ship at that moment. The hangout app was THAT bad early years, and even after quite some time later real usability issues were never fixed.


Also, Google Search and Gmail were REALLY GOOD back when Google made really good products, and they both seem to be treated as sacred there. Neither has received truly radical changes to fit with Google's new and often transient business focuses. Had Google made the mistake of replacing Gmail with Inbox, Gmail would've gone the way of everything else Google's done lately. But it seems like someone rightfully has ensured the two "big ones" stay largely unmolested.


If anything, both Google Search and Gmail have received negative changes.

I've been using DDG for years, though I'll return to Google Web search periodically (Books and Scholar I use more often). It's nagware that's begging me to make it my default browser (no, you blew through that trust relation ages ago, sweetheart), and long before then stopped providing actual usable URL links in favour of its craptacular redirects. On desktop I've got a demungifier script I can run those through, on Android, if I see those, I remember why I don't use Google Web search, abandon it, and return to DDG.

Google News, in a moment of major irony, fails to work at all on Chrome/Android.

The company lost its soul a long time ago. It's been losing its mind for some years now.


Basic HTML Gmail (yes, the one that loads the entire page again for almost any action) is so much faster than AJAXified Gmail (let alone Inbox) that it's worth a couple missing features to use it instead, IMO.

Which is incredibly stupid since maybe the biggest original selling point of AJAX was "it's faster because you don't have to reload the whole page".

And of course the memory use is way, way lower. Especially than Inbox, which is a resource hog.

IMO most google products have been getting steadily worse since ~2008/09. Including things like Youtube.


Inbox is actually great but it's definitely not a replacement for Gmail. It's a very different concept IMO


It was intended to replace Gmail, until Google found out even Googlers hated it.

> The Gmail team did not have to wait for the reaction for long. And it wasn’t very “googly.” It caused an uproar teeming with disgust for just about every decision the Gmail product/design team made. Phrases like, “You guys just completely destroyed Gmail!” and “What are these crazy designers doing over there?!” were everywhere. From being spoken at many of Google’s cafes to every internal online forum.[0]

[0] https://techcrunch.com/2014/11/16/why-did-google-decide-to-s...


Their "Google groupthink ethos bubble" has become their biggest enemy. This comes apparent specially in social products and desktop client support.


This is an important point and echoes my experience as well. After shuffling around all the Google chat apps, almost my entire network is now just using Facebook.

Great job Google.


Exactly. Any other company would kill to have the massive amount of chances they had to be _the_ communications network. Most of the current winners (WhatsApp, snapchat, Facebook) probably could've done it with a fraction of the opportunities Google had. But instead we got literally a decade of them making seemingly arbitrary choices about their messaging products to the point that my prior has made a 180 degree turn: a messaging product coming out of Google is to be avoided like the plague, not preferred.

My usual bias is towards giving companies a pretty huge benefit of the doubt, since these problems are usually very difficult to get right. There's just so, so much data here (from inside and outside the company) to suggest that this was actually pure incompetence.


My analysis is far more cynical.

People (especially product managers and designers) don't get promoted at big software companies for incrementally and carefully improving on some existing thing.

Novelty and churn pays off in the internal promo economy of a large company. Steady at the oars does not.


Oh absolutely. Like I said, I worked at Google, and I certainly don't think all the product people I knew were personally incompetent.

I was using the term more generally to refer to "the way Google runs product and marketing (including the incentive structure)". Though part of this does bleed over into engineering: One of the reasons I quit the company was because promotion had become so far removed from quality of work that I was starting to feel compelled to spend too much of my time thinking about what the promotion rubric might think of my work vs what was actually good for the project.


> Hangouts is able to mix voice, video and text just fine.

For varying values of "just fine". For me, hangouts is probably the worst performing app on mobile, desktop and tablet. It's so bad that even Skype shames it. And FaceTime...well let's not even compare.


Hangouts has always worked a lot better for me than Skype and Facebook video chat. Both on Android and desktop.


Same here, hangouts is one of best working solutions for me and my family on variety of devices and operating systems.


Doesn't it use VP9? Tends to kill hardware acceleration, so very battery draining.

But aside from that it has generally been way more reliable for me too.


At least it doesn't only run on Apple devices, like the complete joke that is FaceTime.


You'll need to explain that, I genuinely don't know what you say it.

Facetime is just a feature. It's a calling option in contacts and any phone call to another iPhone can be turned into a facetime call at the push of a button. That means you don't even need to think about it. There's no install process, no configuration, no account to set up, it's just there.

Furthermore because it can rely on guaranteed hardware features it has the best compression, bandwidth utilization and image quality in the business. If it's a joke, I'm not sure who it is that's doing the laughing.


It is a service, I don't see why it being integrated into some other app should matter.

It works for calling people who bought from the same brand as you, it doesn't work for the rest of people, and it pretends to work (WTF?) for people who used to have the same brand as you.

That's a very different bar from just needing to install an application.


there is an account and you do need to be signed into it in settings. if you don't sign in when you setup the phone, you separately need to sign into: app store, icloud, imessage, facetime, etc


When it comes to shitty interoperability, Google takes the cake.

No one ever claimed FaceTime works on your android. They wanted to open source it and got fucked on patents.

Try using gmail to send a regular iCalendar format invite to an event. If they just happen to have used that email for a google account, fuck you it ends up in the Google calendar account they likely didn't know they even had, and never goes to their email.

THAT is unexpected, and arguably deceptive behaviour.


Is there any more info on trying to open source FaceTime? I've never heard of this before and seems interesting.


Jobs said it at the keynote when FaceTime was announced. They never managed to follow through, and ultimately had to change the way FaceTime works, because of a lawsuit by a patent troll.


But they did do the work to circumvent the patent. "Patents" can't logically be the reason FaceTime isn't an open standard today. I doubt they ever were. Apple simply realized that FaceTime was an effective sales driver for iOS hardware and wanted to keep that competitive advantage more than they wanted to follow through on Jobs's promise.


The patents forced them to route through their own servers instead of peer to peer. Seems like a logical reason not to make that an open standard to me.


Couldn't they have made it an open standard and required an account with them to communicate with their users? An open standard would have resulted in cross-platform clients.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I've read that they actively shutdown or circumvent projects to create other clients. If they really didn't consider it a strategic asset to push people to iOS I doubt they'd bother with that.


I think there are plausible reasons that could have changed their plans for them. Who knows if they would have actually followed through with the original plan or what their true reasons are. I don't know. That they changed their implementation to relay all video through their servers is known. They said so in court.


I guess they could be saying that they don't want to run servers for competitors to connect to, but under patent law, there's clearly nothing preventing them from doing so.


Apple, richest company on the world, couldn't pay for a patent on their chat protocol to make it open? :/


[Here lies a substantive question that was posed to a content-free comment. Edit lasts longer than delete, so you now get to read its depressingly gray tombstone. Let's reflect together on this.]


That's a very strong defense of a piece of software that deliberately prevents you from communicating with people that haven't bought the same piece of electronics.

Think on that for a moment - "Sorry grandmama, I can't send you iMessage or talk to you in person since you didn't spend your pension on an expensive Apple device."

For something as fundamental as human-to-human communication, closed, single vendor, protocols and systems deserve every criticism (and yes, Google deserves it as well).


In theory...in reality when it comes to Apple HN crowd has double standards (eg. see snarky comment on "closing date" at top and try to imagine such a comment on Apple not being downvoted here)


I only started using Hangouts a few months ago, and find the macOS experience acceptable and think the iOS implementation is dead on.


I started using it lot more in the past year, mainly since it hits every platform my kids, parents, and ex use. Which is all of them, at any given moment. Being the family techie, I was the only one to note that we were virtually limited to 1 or 2 choices.


So why can't it be fixed?


The fact that it needs a browser plugin in order for the video/voice features to work doesn't help either.


i think it's more that skype and facetime are amazing


Worse, now I have to find my friends' phone numbers. Is this targeted to people in developing countries who use apps like WhatsApp? Those people don't have fast enough mobile internet to make video calling work.


WhatsApp is not specially an emerging market product, I think it is the most popular chat app in a bunch of European countries.


Yea I think the US is definitely an outlier there; Out of the couple dozen countries I've visited recently outside of the US, Whatsapp seems like hands-down the most popular messaging app (whereas in the US, almost no one I know uses it unless they're in frequent contact with a non-trivial number of foreigners).


A major difference is that in the US text messages and MMS are usually free, so there's not a lot of pressure to move to a different communication medium. In lots of other countries you pay several cents for each individual text message and MMS cost several tens of cents. And this is for domestic messages. With international messages (which you often use because you're country is likely to be much smaller than the US) the costs are often insane and can reach more than a dollar per message. Basically providers in those countries stopped competing with apps like Whatsapp. They still offer a texting service, but they're not trying to get someone to use it, because they already lost the battle.


At least here in the UK SMS' are usually free (or very cheap) but whatsapp is popular since it's very easy to use, allows group chats/voice messages and works well when the connection isn't great. But mostly because it works on virtually every platform (even some feature phones), so you can assume that basically everyone has it.


SMS' can be free in a lot of European countries, the main difference is that MMS didn't really take off in Europe as much as it did in the US so they usually cost more. Also since people weren't that attached to MMS, it was easy to 'replace'


For most of the 2000's MMS didn't work until you went into settings and entered an MMS gateway address or something. Which nobody did since they never used MMS anyway.


> A major difference is that in the US text messages and MMS are usually free, so there's not a lot of pressure to move to a different communication medium.

I'm not sure that's true. At least in my sample, there are quite a few people who explicitly ask you to use some chat app instead of texting them, because they don't pay for unlimited texting.


I think a big reason for this is that in Europe people frequently move between countries, eg for school or work or vacation. This often means changing SIM cards and local phone number.

So it makes sense to use whatsapp because it's data based and you can keep the same account across SIM card changes.


That's actually a bug-feature: whatsapp is supposed to be tied to a phonenumber.

For example, take this use case: you have whatsapp with a german number. You go to italy. You get an italian sim. You get a new phone. Result: you can not use your german whatsapp. There is no way you can activate your german whatsapp account without yout german sim.


That's why you keep your original sim around (receiving an sms from abroad isn't very expensive and that's enough for re activating your account). And you can transfer your account to a different number as well.


Yeah haha - the concept of people not using WhatsApp is as alien to me as people who use WhatsApp is alien to the parent comment.

In the last 4/5 years, the only time I've met people not on WhatsApp were Chinese (WeChat) or Korean (Kakao) so basically. Amongst people I've just met it's pretty common to go straight to WhatsApp now when "adding" each other


WhatsApp does not run on tablets and I only have a tablet. I make calls on it and everything. Just can run WhatsApp.


I think the Russians are heavy Viber users.


> I think it is the most popular chat app ...

I'd say that it's also commonly used as a photo/video/file sharing tool.


The one thing I hate about hangouts and I could never figure out how to change was when searching for someone to text. It would search googles list of people with google+ and not my contact list first. Random people I don't even know named Mark, for example, would show up for me to text.

Still makes no sense to me.

I'm on iOS.


This is the most infuriating thing...now I just go through my contacts to find who I want to message (since their number exists but selecting SMS still brings up "On Hangouts")


Haven't used an iPhone in over a year but isn't this the same on iOS with Facetime and iMessage? One for video calls one for text messages?


Ignoring that I probably won't use this (no fan of of that company), if it doesn't require a weird setup it might be more accessible than Hangouts.

At least last time I checked Hangouts required you to join G+ first? Is that still the case?


No, Hangouts doesn't require G+. You can use it via Android or https://hangouts.google.com/ without joining G+.


Duo only requires phone number (and that you periodically send your contacts to Google)

Allo I think will be the same - they're transitioning to phone # based auth instead of Google account auth so that using a Google account is not a limiting factor.


I'm still putting my money on vector.im and matrix.org. Closed source communication apps are not appealing to me, even if they come with an E2E promise.

From a business perspective this makes sense for Google. A big problem with Skype was always the lack of ubiquity. Lot of people had it, but it required another install and explicit configuration. Now that Skype is nearly bundled with W10 and WebRTC has made skype.com trivial, the gap for Google to move in is closing. If this rolls out with Google branded Android, people will use it irrespective of its merits (a la bundled Internet Explorer). Interop on iOS makes it stand out from Facetime. There's always room to change terms later when it becomes a household name.

Also, with all these services adding an E2E sticker on their communications, Google's hand was forced, they're not trend setters here and they shouldn't be applauded for being extremely late to the privacy game.


> Closed source communication apps are not appealing to me

And they should be forbidden, according to (admittedly a broad interpretation of) the telecommunications act of 1996, [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_Act_of_1996


I'm following matrix.org and vector.im development, hoping they'll get good and take off. Main thing stopping me from jumping on board is that running a matrix home server is said to be very resource intensive and my home server is already overloaded. Maybe later.


I've actually been running my own matrix.org home server quite fine for over a couple of months now on a $5/month vps via digital ocean. ADMITTEDLY, the scale of users on this instance is low in numbers, so your mileage may vary with more users, more activity, etc. I'm using this low-spec vps simply to test things out, and learn about matrix.org. You should give it a try. Whether you use digital ocean or any other competitor vps provider, if after installing the matrix.org home server you find its not to your liking, you just kill off the vps; cheap and easy experiment! ;-)


does anyone run matrix hosting that you don't need to care about, and is still reasonable about security and privacy?

99% of people will never run their own matrix server, and 98% of people will never pay $5/mo for a chat service.

Basically, where can the general public sign up for a matrix account that's free, offers a good experience, and respects my rights?


Yeah good points, not everyone needs to host their own matrix.org home server; users can simply hop on existing ones. The one on matrix.org or vector.im are pretty robust and actually allows public registration (and you can have private rooms for privacy, etc.). Check out: http://matrix.org/docs/projects/try-matrix-now.html or directly to https://vector.im

Also, I should have stated, I hosted my home server on a vps, but one can also totally just do it on your own server at home (so you could avoid paying any vps provider)...again, for those who have an interest in hosting their own.

Personally, my goal was to host the server for my family...but the really big advantage of decentralized platforms like matrix.org (and others like gnu social, etc.!) is that my host can connect with others...hey email has worked successfully connecting billions of decentralized people for so long now, so there is precedent for this type of concept.

I suggest heading over to vector.im - its the easiest on-ramp - and give it a try! i hope that helps!


That sounds ideal, thank you. I'm generally increasingly convinced that while decentralised services are great for many powerusers, they too often shift too much of the burden onto users, vastly diminishing the market penetration of what are nominally good ideas.

Another example of this is the current IndieWeb movement, which while great, doesn't fix very much because 1) low penetration means you have to republish all your content back into proprietary silos, regranting them license to use that we're supposed to be escaping and 2) by forcing people to set up and develop their own platforms means that the majority of indieweb blogs are subtly incompatible through bugs and mostly suck up time that could be used blogging with time spent to fix the blog.

:(


You hit the nail on the head with the challenges that you stated! While I'm a really, really big fan of decentralized platforms AND indieweb, i acknowledge that many (though not all) of the apps to allow users to on-ramp are not yet as simple as those that the proprietary silos/platforms might offer. Or the apps might be ok but requires more time/committment for users to set up things before extracting benefits. This of course sort of prevents otherwise willing new users from joining the fray...but I'm comforted by the fact that this is almost exactly how it was many years ago when the web first became available to the public, and many people thought things were "too tough" to get people onto the web; and yet here we are with so many people on the web. I'll admit that perhaps I'm an optimist. ;-) But i feel we just need to get a few Goldilocks-type killer apps to drastically ramp up user engagement. Cheers!


I actually liked the original matrix mobile client on android, but vector.im still rocks! (And of course vector.im will keep getting updates while the original matrix client i believe will not.) Regardless of the client used, I agree 100% with your comments on using open protocols such as matrix.org; that's going to be the future! Kudos!


vector.im looks cool, thanks for that :) Will be following it.

But man, that is one hard-to-use (browser) client.


Sounds like Duo has a simple user experience, which is great. But it doesn't solve the eye-contact problem with video calls today.

When you look at the person on the screen whom you're talking to, that person sees you looking away, because you're not looking into the camera, which is somewhere on the edge of the screen. So you don't make eye contact with the person you're talking to.

And for me, that makes video calls feel weird.


To be honest, I never found this to be a huge problem.

After hundreds of Skype calls with people, I just don't notice it anymore.

Sure, to fix that problem would be nice. But I don't think the engineering required to put a camera behind a screen, or creepily adjusting people's pupils in realtime, are worth it to rectify what is hardly an issue.

EDIT: also, it's a bit weird to write a critique like yours for the launch of a new platform. No one else solves this issue, so why does Google not solving it suddenly make their platform pointless?

It's like if Tesla releases the Model 3 and you're like "Uh, it doesn't fly? Pass."


" also, it's a bit weird to write a critique like yours for the launch of a new platform"

I think this is a fair critique because the release announcement states the product should address the symptom that "nearly half of us never make video calls on mobile". If you believe the underlying problem is that lack of eye contact makes video calling low-value to many people this is not a viable solution.


Yup. Can't get over the feeling of looking down at the person you are talking to. If you look at the camera, you can't look at the person :(


Just need 4 front facing cameras


No, just place the other person as close to the camera as possible. That'll give the illusion of looking right at the person.


So, google hangouts?


Really, they need a camera a bit above center of the screen.


> Really, they need a camera a bit above center of the screen

Somehow I don't see a phone that has a camera hole in the middle of the screen selling too well. If the camera is put in the bazel, then it replaces looking up/down with looking slightly to the side.


They'd have to solve the "hole in the screen" problem the "camera a bit above center" thing creates. You're not wrong.


Or maybe one on the side of your phone, but forward facing?


Can't they just put a camera behind the screen? Been waiting for this for over a decade


apple has a patent on something similar since 2006, http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=...

recently improved upon it: http://appleinsider.com/articles/09/01/08/apple_files_patent...

Wonder why it never made it into a product.


Maybe they tried and current screen tech sucks for it?


Now that people are coming up with ways to put people's real facial expressions in VR, most video calls are probably going to be replaced with avatars generated from your face that use your facial expressions captured by the front-facing camera.

https://vimeo.com/156034648


Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace has a remarkable little snippet on this. I'll try to find it and respond back.

Edit: http://declineofscarcity.com/?page_id=2527

Published in 1996


I think a floating head is a lot scarier than people not looking directly at me...


I was imagining something a bit more like http://store.steampowered.com/app/274920.


Or as in Ghost in the Shell. Hard to tell since it's a cartoon, but their video calls always seemed like they were supposed to be looking at a representation of the other person: https://youtu.be/bv3Xyt-0V6s?t=4m30s


The screen would be in the way?


Yes, but there must be some way to make the pixels translucent enough to work


The screen pixels or the camera pixels?


Or put 4 cameras on four sides of the screen and merge the video feed into screen center POV.


You can just virtually move the camera a bit if you are using something like Kinect V2 (with a tiny bit of stereo shadowing as a result).


Most phones have cameras behind their screens, good for taking close-ups of your index finger


1. build an algorithm to detect (using open cv?) and adjust eye position so they look correct to the viewer 2. patent it and license it to apple/google/microsoft 3. ??? 4. profit


    > build an algorithm 
    > adjust eye position
yes, those are the hard parts



is it just me or the examples are just creepy ?

anyway I think its a minor issue. I am more worried about if I am dressed / groomed appropriately for the video call rather than if I am having constant eye contact.


that is a major problem too, particularly in Asia and discrimination (race, sex, age, disabled) target groups. audio-only is also impacted (language, stutter, accent, pitch, etc) but to a lesser degree.

but then we developers would be lost without problems.


confirmed creepy. not just you.


To me, the obvious endgame is a 3D reconstruction of the image from the perspective of your eyes, so the screen becomes a "virtual window". I tried to pitch this to Skype a few years back, it felt like a no-brainer given that they were then recently acquired by Microsoft (which is big on similar technologies with Kinect and lately HoloLens). But they were completely uninterested! I think they were so used to Skyping that they didn't feel it was a problem.


Entirely agree with you. This is the missing link in terms of making Video chat a good experience. I find voice is better because I concentrate on what the person is saying. With video I feel like my brain is exhausted trying to compensate for misread visual cues and trying to simulate eye-contact. Also that thing of seeing yourself is horrible...you keep monitoring your own expression which is just weird.


I don't find the non-eye contact thing too big a deal.

But sounds like it might be Skype soon: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/gaze-ma...


I have an iPhone 6S and the front camera seems to do a decent job with the eye-contact problem. I don't seem to need to do the look into the camera when taking selfies.


Great point. Would be nice if we could integrate the lens into the display. :)


Wow, I'm so glad they made yet another video calling app. I was almost beginning to feel like I knew how to call the people I care about. So glad I'll start hearing 'I'll call you on Duo', which will be great when I'm at my desktop computer.


The #1 thing I want from a chatting/calling app is the ability to have a synchronized conversation on my phone and my desktop. Facebook and google handle this really well. When I'm at my computer, i dont want to pick up my phone. when im on the move, i dont want to miss messages.

The #2 thing I want is to be able to pick the app I use. I like pidgin, i want to use pidgin. I hate having to open gmail to use certain hangouts features. This tends to go hand in hand with the "I'll call you on X" thing. I dont care where people are calling me from/at if receiving it is centralized.


Didn't you hear that desktop is dead?


And it let's the caller see what you're doing before they call. Brilliant!

Of course, people like Zuckerberg can't use this feature because they cover up the camera lens on their laptops with tape.


No, it lets the recipient of the call see the caller, so they can choose to answer or not. It does not let the caller see who they are calling before they answer. Also the tape on your laptop won't matter since it is phone only for now.


It responds to a call by accepting the connection and a payload (video) before the user has decided whether to "accept" the call?

"... since it is phone only for now."

For now?

Yikes.


Guess i'm in the minority of users here who loves this app and really wanted a facetime like thing on Android.

Hangouts work, but it's heavy and not a good experience overall. And facetime is ios only, so Duo will definitely bridge this gap.

I read on a Verge's article that Google wants to make Hangouts enterprise focussed by integrating more into the Google apps and keep Allo/Duo as the consumer focused communication apps which i think is a great strategy.

Once all of android users get this pre installed, i think its not difficult to get rest of the users use this.


As a Project Fi user, I will very much miss the ability to seamlessly carry on SMS conversations from Hangouts on all of my devices. I really hope that functionality is added to Allo.


Have you tried pushbullet? I use it for texting from my desktop and it works quite well. I'm not affiliated with them, just a happy user.

https://www.pushbullet.com/


Yeah, pushbullet is alright (it's what I used before switching to Fi), but direct integration with Hangouts is _so_ much cleaner. It just works everywhere, on every device.


> make Hangouts enterprise focussed by integrating more into the Google apps and keep Allo/Duo as the consumer focused communication apps which i think is a great strategy.

This makes a lot of sense: there are some big differences in the experiences wanted by these two groups.

Edit: and there's a whole story about that: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/16/google-hangouts-business...


> Once all of android users get this pre installed

And how far in the future will that be? Will Samsung install it on their phones?

I'm sure Duo isn't bad, but I'm not going to be able to convince my friends to sign up for it when Facebook Messenger already exists.


Not very long i guess based on the comments from Sundar/VP of communications at Google's comments. They say they have a great plan for user acquisition.

This is a new ground up video app and so the performance is better compared to other apps(I tested it, its definitely better than hangouts/messenger/skype, but probably same as facetime quality).


> They say they have a great plan for user acquisition.

Do they share speechwriters with Donald Trump?


Haha! I understand the comment, but what i want to infer with that statement is that they are very serious about this app and not like other apps(Inbox/G-board/Spaces) which they launched and tested. Allo & Duo has been launched in the I/O and you can figure the importance from it.


No desktop support, one device only, they must be joking.[1]

I just hope it can be disabled with rest of the Google bloatware when I buy my next phone.

[1]http://www.reddit.com/r/android/comments/4xxnjl/_/d6jawai


Yes, this my major complaint, too.

I have 3 Android devices and can use this only on the one that has a SIM card? And even if the others had SIM cards, they'd be on different accounts? WTF.


Viber solves this. You need a phone number to create an account, but other devices can be added as trusted devices.

When you install the client on such device, Viber app on the main phone serves as a authenticator and displays a QR code/PIN that you enter on the other device. This adds the other device as trusted and can use the account, contacts get synced to it.

I have no clue who in Google really thinks their solution will be popular. Someone need to shake up that company a bit and make it step out of their bubble.


Wire also takes a similar approach.

I think google is trying to mimic whatsapp here: A single device with end to end encryption so that your keys never leave the device.


This is pretty standard these days, mobile only and phone number authentication are what the general public are used to.


I still think this is a huge mistake. It's great it's easy to use but now Google has two products that do video chat and they do not work together; why? If they eventually discontinue Hangouts then now we have to use two apps for texting and video?

The past several years have shown that providing a more integrated experienced typically brings a better user experience so this just smacks as a mistake.


They already have two products for SMS: Messenger and Hangouts, and they have deprecated SMS in Hangouts. Now they have two products for video chat.

The linear line through the data points says Hangouts are going away.

Ref: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/01/google-hangouts-7-0-f...


> providing a more integrated experienced typically brings a better user experience

Has it really? One of the reasons I originally signed onto the google ecosystem, was that they had their services split. My youtube was separate from gchat, which was separate from gmail. Now I don't use almost any google products, because I don't want everything linked back to one account. Whenever they do this, google half-asses the integration, and things end up in a weird state


> Has it really?

Absolutely and without a question. You will find exceptions here and there where the integration was done poorly or ultimately didn't make sense but the idea around providing integrated experiences is eliminating friction. Smart phones are fast but switching from one application to another is incredibly slow. Yes it's easy and yes you can download special launchers to slightly improve this but the fact remains that switching applications runs the risk of an application being unloaded from memory, it requires typically several taps and possibly yet another initialization.

But what if it works together in the same app? Take Google Maps and Waze for instance. Waze is awesome for gathering social data around traffic whereas Google Maps had some of that but not nearly at the same level of detail. Google integrated the Waze data into Google Maps so now, in the same application, you have both. No switching required. No need to run two mapping apps (because, let's face it, Waze's directions were never the greatest).

Let's go in a different direction now. Android didn't natively support finger print readers when companies, such as Samsung, started to include them. Due to the terrible integration you couldn't use finger prints so much of anything beyond unlocking your phone and even then there were several security vulnerabilities around that very point. Now that Google has included finger print reading, natively, into the platform you can use it everywhere. It's no longer a weird, separate, nebulous thing.

Maybe those examples are not the best but the point is that you must always march towards less and less friction. Once your app is fast and good enough the next step is integrations into other apps / systems to decrease the friction.


If all your focusing on is UI, than yeah, sure, I guess. I think things are more complicated than that though.


I'm only focusing on UX. Sometimes that's UI. Sometimes that's APIs. Sometimes that's shell commands. UX covers a wide range of items from casual users to hardcore software developers.

The best UX typically wins. If the implementation is complex or not is immaterial.


It's already bad enough that I have a row of chat apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, Hangouts, Skype, Slack, Telegram etc.) on my phone because I can't get everyone I know to agree on one app and now, Google's trying to get me to add yet another icon to that list! I love Telegram but I couldn't get more than a few friends to try it out and even then, no one checks their Telegram anymore because none of THEIR friends are on it. Even though I love the tech here, I can't get enough people to try and use it.

Not sure why this had to be its own app. Could have just been included into Allo. Also, all of the other apps I mentioned above have some form a desktop app (which is in a way, the biggest factor for me considering that's where I spend most of my time). Sigh! Great tech, terrible packaging.


Someone should build a meta video calling app: Make a normal phone call, and if the app detects that both parties have a common video calling app installed on their devices, the meta app notifies the caller ("Press * for video") and helps reconnect the call with the video calling app.


Hmm that's how iPhone works.


And that is an open standard that works with Skype, Duo and other non-apple alternatives?


> It's already bad enough that I have a row of chat apps

And this is why we need to be using open protocols, instead of walled-off systems. If I had one client that could integrate all of these, I'd use them. But since I need one install per chat-system, I end up just using none of them.


what?? no threema?

but seriously I have the same problem. I liked that hangouts was bringing it all together and had live hangouts, and collaborative document editing and everything.. it feels like they just really didn't work on making hangouts lag free and high throughput and bringing the people there with superior quality calling.


I don't have a number on my Pad...there is not even a Sim in there. Why can't it be just their damn Google account?! I dont even want to give my phone number to them and when I'm in a foreign country i don't want them to easy Switch between WiFi and the super expensive Roaming just because I went in the wrong corner of the Hotel room...


The device you activate Duo on doesn't need a sim. Just put in your phone's number and you can activate when it comes through.


As I wrote above: I don't want to give them my phone number.There are other ways of registration. I don't want my phone number flying around in God knows what ad Networks. This is unneccessary madness and nobody should be OK with that


Have they announced when it will be discontinued?


A bit cynical but that was my initial thought as well. It's sad because FaceTime exists for so long and is so easy to use and I'd really like to have an app that I can use with both of my parents (one Android, one iOS). But I see Google failing with this already.


So you rather Duo not exist and keep not having an app that you can use with both of your parents?


The problem is that I want such an app to exist (and thrive), but that history taught me not to get my hopes up when it comes to Google products. Chances are they will fail to gain a significant userbase and/or the product (better yet project) will be discontinued.


I don't see a better app at the moment since Skype got bought by Microsoft and all the encryption got nerfed.

Although I get where you're coming from. It would also be nice if all products discontinued by google would just get open sourced.

They are basically saying it's useless to them so why not let somebody else give a try.


My thought exactly - the timing is really great in a way. - Skype gets worse with every release (especially Mac & Linux) and the call quality is still stuck in somewhere 2008 - Facetime is cool but still Apple Ecosystem only - Phone messengers (WhatsApp et al.) aren't really serious on the topic

Real-time video is plain hard, especially when latency comes into play. Having Google tackling this with their unique technology (QUIC / lots of low-level performance expertise) and resources (GCP / CDN), I'm really looking forward to try it out.


> They are basically saying it's useless to them so why not let somebody else give a try.

Their standard reason is that most products use tons of internal API calls/private modules and it would take a lot of hours to replace those with code they're willing to release.


"better app" can just be an app with less features, that's more buggy, that's going to be around in ten years. Mom and dad don't need to go learning a new app every couple of years.

Video chat has been around since forever. Having a major player like Google wade into the fray, destroy all the small fry, then bail out (as it has done many times before)? Not good for the market.


Skype was launched in 2003, and IIRC was primarily voice for the first couple of years. That brings us up to the 10 years that's apparently the required expected longevity to even consider an app.

Whatever small fry exists on the market, they have survived the Skype juggernaut, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Facebook chat. I find it highly unlikely that Google Duo is going to be a uniquely destructive force.


Because there are absolutely no other video chat apps in existence on both Android and iOS? Duo is the only possible option?

The point is given the many, many other video chat apps that do already exist and fill this function, several of them produced by Google, what does Google think it's doing bringing out yet another one.


I thought Google already has a product that does video calls across iOS and Android... Hangouts. I don't understand why they are doing this independently of a product they already have.


No one understands anything at all to do with Google's strategy on Hangouts. Certainly no one working at Google does.


Agree.

> Mr. Nikhyl Singhal joined Credit Karma after four years at Google, where he held several senior product roles, including leading Hangouts, Google Talk, Google Voice and Google Photos.


Obviously not the point that guy was making, as I paraphrased him on not having alternatives, and he said it was sad (not confusing or upsetting).


Wire [1] is an app you could use across platforms for chat, voice calls and video calls (and even doodling). Sign up is using a phone number or an email address. It also has end-to-end encryption with multi-platform support and cross device sync (phone/desktop/laptop).

When I started using it a few months ago, the contacts discovery was a bit buggy, but it's worth a try. The feature set is quite rich.

[1]: https://www.wire.com


Reputations are often earned.


Isn't hangouts on iOS & android?


If we will have Facetime and this, the correct name to use is Duopoly.


As long as we pretend Skype doesn't exist. Or none of the other services listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_telecommunicatio...


Have they announced when Hangouts will be discontinued?

First they deprecated SMS on Hangouts. Now they have replicated the video and voice portion. The next shoe to drop will be discontinuing Hangouts.

Ref: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/01/google-hangouts-7-0-f...


Late 2018


source? ...or it's just pointless trolling ?


> Have they announced when it will be discontinued?

Give them a chance to collect more data first. Many governments might be backing this service.


They really shouldn't re-use internal explanatory code names for final product branding.


Actually, the next step is to announce their new video chat app that will replace Duo. Once they've done that, they will announce the end-date for Duo.


VERY good question!


Wow this is so much the future... Between my 4g video native capability, skype (remember), facetime, etc. that was missing. Thank you Google for putting well-paid engineers to solvant this.


Don't forget the need for yet more proprietary protocols.


How does this add any value above existing products that do the same?


Well, I heard skype got rid of encryption, while this is encrypted end to end.

You don't run this through your google account, only your phone number is needed to sign up.

The new video protocol supposedly degrades better if you go somewhere where the service is slower.

I'm sure there are others.


> You don't run this through your google account, only your phone number is needed to sign up.

This does not add any value if I want to have two different Duo accounts - e.g., one for personal use, and one for business use.


parent is being sarcastic.


Why is Google launching multiple apps with similar functionalities?

They already had Hangouts, they recently launched a group sharing app "Spaces". And now a new video calling app "Duo". They also have an app "Allo" which is another chatting platform.

I am not complaining or anything, I am just curious about what are they planning to do with their old apps? i.e. Hangouts?


Google’s product strategy: Make two of everything For Google, its entire product lineup is just a big series of A/B experiments.

http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/10/googles-product-stra...


I'll just wait until other users have figured out which ones are useful and which are a waste of time, let Google kill the ones that fail and iterate on the ones that don't until either everyone else adopts the same strategy as me or Google figures out what the heck they're doing. I'll set an alarm to remind myself to check back in 5 years.


For a self-identified "late adopter", you sure comment early on.


I've been early adopting Google products for years, many of which sadly nolonger exist. That's the problem.


AndroidPolice has an article today[1] that Hangouts has failed as an all-in-one messaging platform. They're going to focus it in on the enterprise - where usage is much more prevalent, apparently - whatever that means.

Hangouts is likely to become a Google Apps Slack competitor, I guess.

[1]: http://www.androidpolice.com/2016/08/16/google-planning-focu...


I guess it depends on the enterprise... lots of places outright block google services: drive, e-mail, hangouts, etc.


I guess they mean those that already pay for google apps.


Oh, finally they want to compete with Slack.

Google Talk group chat features were released in 2007.


On the same week that they discontinued Hangouts on Air in favor of YouTube? Why is Google always making and closing stuff?


Google culture is hiring the smartest or most motivated college grads, paying them to babysit legacy money printing systems built by the generation before them, then occasionally encouraging them to team up and clone popular services from other companies and startups.

The clones get passed around the campus for dogfooding until enough interest builds up and the project goes up the chain of command until a VP (at the time Marissa) signs off on it with notes on what to improve along with granting the necessary resources to spin it up.

Then if someone decides the project has legs they figure out how to engineer it for Google's audience and launch. If it doesn't work then the team disperse and move on to another project. Or it works and the team gets a moment in the sun.

Every single popular thing on the internet has a Google clone somewhere in the intranet.


It's an unfortunate situation for Google product engineers. It's basically a competition. It has some benefit and has some really big downside. If my reference is correct, usually there are more than one team building the same product (e.g. Google Plus).


It's run now like a big college hackathon.


Spot on, which is the opposite of Apple (under Jobs)


Apple felt more like a newspaper agency. Many teams contribute for various sections, many compete to be above the fold, then Steve Jobs acting as editor in chief determines what the ledes are.

There was a separation of business and content creators but since they don't rely on advertising to pay the bills the content creators got more freedom and resources to play with than a traditional newspaper firm.


Some things end up in different box than they were in before when you cleaning up your house. Have you never moved your code from one package to another?


This is an exceptionally strong argument for having your internal and external representations separate. So that every fucking reorg or personnel shift doesn't require 3 billion people to update bookmarks and Web apps and password safes.

Some companies just can't get their branding straight. They launch a video product, then buy one, then try to keep them separate, then try to merge them, then kill one.

Or they launch any of a bazillion interactive chat apps, each worse than the first, and keep killing them off. Then wonder why people don't use them.

They have a secret sauce money machine and start fucking with it.

They create a fear-driven paranoia taillight chaser, set up really stupid rules about engagement, drive off their highly enthusiastic early-adopter crowd, try to cram it down everyone's throats, allow 2 billion random strangers on the Internet to set Calendar appointments (Scoble's blast at Slic Vic was classic), and mix a bazillion random Internet freaks with your personal email contacts.

They shove cameras into the world's face and the world bitchslaps them for it, rightly.

And that's the piddling stuff.

Then they create smoke alarms that cannot be turned off, thermostats that can't work without Internet, and buy, then sell, a war-making robot-terminator-dog company.

And they expect us to believe them that their Majick Cars will be bugproof, un-annoying, and non-lethal.

I think they'll find that when the time comes, the letter H will be well occupied by Hubris.


A lot of companies I have seen so far don't always rebrand. They simply announce new release. IMO, it's actually better to announce new release than to rebrand. When you rebrand and offer similar feature, you are basically telling your user you are not committed to build anything long term. This is like building APIs. Users don't really care if your API is now running on a Linux host or on a Windows host, coded in Python or coded in Go. You do the refactoring transparent to users. Imagine your car's manufacturer is sold and re-brand every two years, how would you feel about your car?


Sounds promising. But not sure what this adds on top of Hangouts, which has a great group (and of course one to one) video calling feature. The only difference seems that Duo works with phone numbers, not Google Accounts.


This limits and subtracts from Hangouts for no real benefit.

Hangouts works on phones, tablets and laptops. It does voice, video and text. Fragmenting these features across apps and devices seems to be a major step backwards...but apparently two apps is simpler than one?


This strategy seems to have born out of Facebook's success with breaking up the app into specialized features (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp etc.)


The only break up here was Messenger, and even there they did not just continue the feature but gradually phased it out to make sure people are actually following. Messenger still uses the same network behind and did not create a separate one.

Instagram and Whatsapp are just examples of how not to kill a successful product. Turns out it's quite simple: You change nothing.


>Instagram and Whatsapp are just examples of how not to kill a successful product. Turns out it's quite simple: You change nothing.

For a long time it seemed like the strategy was to change nothing. Now it's become clear the strategy is to be scared of changing anything, just leave it to fester and fall behind then panic and recklessly start cloning competitors features and diluting what made the service compelling in the first place.


"The only difference seems that Duo works with phone numbers, not Google Accounts"

Which is a huuuuuge difference. This is the same factor that made whatsapp so popular on the smartphone compared to all other other chat apps that were popular at the time (including google talk) but where each system was using a different account creation/login flow on that tiny screen, Whatsapp came along and had the brilliant insight/accident of simply supporting your phone's addressbook to find you and your friends. Even facebook chat couldn't keep up with them even though facebook app was installed pretty much on every internet connected phone at the time. Rest is history.


Yes, being tied to Google account does seem limiting, after all there are more phone numbers than Google Accounts. I have a gut feeling that one of Allo and Duo will be a success.


But there are far more Google accounts than Allo/Duo users, and an e-mail address is far more memorable than a phone number.


Email addresses are generally not in your phone's addressbook while phone numbers always are. Also, SMS based phone number verification is quick and easy (and completely automatic on Android without any user action required).


It seems that a main differentiating feature is also the fact that all calls are end-to-end encrypted.

Perhaps as a video-calling alternative to Whatsapp? (given that neither of them are open source)


However like big brother, Google stores everything and runs machine learning algos on top. That's a big no no for privacy.


If they do indeed use end-to-end encryption, there should be nothing to store/learn for Google. Though without it being open source, there's no way to be sure. Unless maybe they start collaborating with Moxie, as Whatsapp did.


"Announces", yes; "releases", no. The Google Play Store offers only a "pre-register" button. Yet it has 4.9 stars already.

Looking forward to seeing an analysis of the protocol. Does it go through Google servers, or is it really peer to peer? How does the "end to end encryption" work? How are the keys generated and exchanged? Do the servers have the keys? Are you sure?


From the post: "We’re beginning to roll out Duo for Android and iOS today, and it will be live worldwide in the next few days."


Agreed... I was looking for the magic words "uses the Signal protocol" or something along those lines.

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