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Say hello to Google Allo: a smarter messaging app (googleblog.blogspot.com)
440 points by mikeevans on Sept 21, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 519 comments



Not sure how common this is, but everyone at both school and work these days shifts seamlessly from mobile to dekstop and back. This has been one of the main reasons we tend to use WhatsApp and Slack, even for corporate communications as silly as that sounds -- because you can type long messages on it on the keyboard/desktop but also have access to it on the go.

What I don't understand is -- given Allo had a blank slate, why did they limit it to just mobile? They cover two major silos (Android + iOS), (one reason we dont use iMsg) but why not the third silo (non-mobile)?


This is exactly why so many of my friends and family use Hangouts née Gmail Chat.

We can use it in the browser at work just by keeping Gmail open in a tab. No IM applications to install or concerns about whether we're running Windows, OSX, or whatever.

Then the conversations follow when you log off whatever desktop or laptop you're on via the mobile app. About half of us use Android so it either comes standard or you can easily install. The other half uses iOS and unlike iMessage/iChat/Facetime, you can easily use it on iOS as well as Android.

I installed Allo today but so far I haven't had a chance to try it out. Frankly it gives me the same mild annoyance I felt when Facebook broke messaging out into a separate app (and when I just said screw it and uninstalled both).

As much as I use and generally like Google stuff, they drive me nuts with their approach a lot of the time. When GChat/Talk became Hangouts and started integrating Voice and SMS/MMS, it seemed like a move in the right direction, both for them as a company (wanting to be your one stop shop for messaging) and for me as a user (less apps, more seamless integration). Then SMS/MMS was split back off into Messaging, Voice...I haven't really heard much about Voice in a while which is weird because it was one of those things that seemed so promising at one point. And now Duo alongside the pretty great video chat already in Hangouts and Allo alongside Messaging alongside Hangouts.

I get the idea of maybe starting a secondary platform/service/app to see what sticks and what doesn't. At worst they can integrate the good bits into their main product (see: Inbox). But their messaging strategy seems more like publishing Inbox with the intention of just ditching plain old Gmail.


My lord, why isn't Allo just Hangouts 3? They had an established userbase, a name, a brand, and useful cross-platform tools already.

I get the desire to start fresh, but that's a lot of established traction in a very crowded market to just throw away.


> why isn't Allo just Hangouts 3?

I was wondering that too. I honestly suspect some executive in Google's team wanted to have more visibility, team and power.


Resume Driven Development


oh I thought this was some new Hangouts interface, but it's not is it?

So...Google Buzz.

If they want something really innovative, bring back open standards and a federated IM protocol. We went from AIM/Yahoo/MSN to XMPP .. and back to Google/FB. It feels like a regression.


XMPP was just to crack the egg. They had to dangle a big enough carrot to get users to switch. They knew once they had them switched that it would be VERY unlikely users would go back. So... lockdown! And they were right, how many people have switched back to AOL/MSN/Yahoo? I know I haven't.


I switched to FB Messenger because it's on mobile and desktop, and everyone I talk to is there. If MSN wasn't dead I'd probably still be using that.

Edit: Oh and more recently Discord has taken over my friend group's urge to talk with voices.


If only FB would release a proper desktop client for their messaging services. They could own that space.


I use messenger.com more often than I use Facebook at this point. I know it's not technically a desktop app but you could probably set up a shortcut with something like (assuming chrome. Don't know if FF has the same feature)

"path\to\chrome\chrome.exe" --app=https://www.messenger.com

Edit: Actually testing that, that's actually pretty neat. I'm going to do that when I get home!


I use franz http://meetfranz.com/ specifically for that purpose


Exactly. Hangouts has a lot of problems - its performance doesn't impress me, and the UI is confusing in a lot of ways, and splitting SMS/Conversations is something that really disappointed me, but still - it has the full featureset. I mean obviously, it suffers from the fact that it's heavily tied to Google accounts, which isn't ideal for trying to reach outside of the Google sphere. But otherwise, it does everything.

So why doesn't it get more love from Google?


Performance? Just how fast do you type, anyway?

UI? I write things, and they appear in front of someone else. Even my technophobe mom has no problems with it.

Tied to Google... well, yeah. But you kind of need some kind of 'account' for chat apps.

I remember when 'Whatsapp' came out and people mentioned that it didn't have a web interface. I won't use anything that I can't type into when I'm at a computer - pulling out my phone and t-y-p-i-n-g out a message is just a non-starter.


> Performance? Just how fast do you type, anyway?

The UI lags hard for me during common operations, such as opening the app, and sending messages; often there's a several second lag between pressing the send button, the entry field blanking, and the message finally showing up in the conversation w/ UI indicating that it's in the process of being sent.

And occasionally, yes, I out-type the app & phone's ability to process keyboard input. My phone is a bit old, but that seems like an excuse more than anything; I don't really understand why it's so hard for a device w/ a processor that measures its speed in GHz and RAM measured in GB to keep up with a single app whose job is to send text messages.

But alas, the phone world's opinion is that I should upgrade to the latest and greatest $400-$600 phone every 18 months.


Weird. I have a Nexus 4, which is several years old at this point, and hangouts runs fine on it. Maybe because the OS itself is fairly up to date?


I have a Nexus 5 running the latest Android (excluding N) and have exactly the same problems the commenter above you describes.

Not only that, but when I've explained these issues to my friends they respond with the same response you gave, down to the 'weird.'


Hangouts crashes all the time on my Nexus 6P. Video calls are buggy and any interaction with photos is extremely sluggish. This has been going on for months and months.

And the name is stupid. When I used to encourage people to use Hangouts, I always had to explain the name. Talk is a great name and they should have gone back to it for Allo.


Hangouts is very sluggish. Messages are also delayed on it sometimes.


I think it helps to define what we are talking about. "Hangouts" can be the system overall, the web interface (and which one, Inbox, Gmail or video chat?), or the mobile phone app, of which it may behavior differently on the different phone OSs. Hangouts is usually very timely and responsive for me when using Inbox or Gmail. The Android app is slow and annoying. I've never used the iOS app.


Not a full feature set - can't share contacts, one of the things that made me switch away


Oof yes, I have noticed that one a couple of times. And it would be nice to be able to send messages and video chat between individual devices that I own (all my kids' tablets are on my account), but I suppose that's out-of-scope.



> They had an established userbase, a name, a brand

While I agree with first two, Hangouts was a terrible brand with a bad rep on UX (too slow on Android, complex UI etc), it was kind of like Google's Internet Explorer. They had to get rid of the brand for consumers at least especially younger ones that are the prime target (the Snapchat generation if I may say). I agree though that Hangouts has a better reputation with the corporate world even though Slack is kind of eating their lunch minus the video part where they're still king I think.


They had talk, voice, buzz, hangouts ... have a messenger app ... now 2 more ... all of them incomplete, slow, confusing, ugly ... it's amazing how, with the immense budget they have and with so many smart people , they cannot come up with something decent

These 2 new apps are destined to fail

I still use hangouts cause it's linked with Gmail ... but I hate it cause it's slow and unreliable


Apparently Google plans to focus Hangouts on enterprise/business customers.

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


That is what I think also.

One possible explanation: internally Google eats their own dog food. When I was a contractor there, everything ran on gmail, gooogle docs, and hangouts. Perhaps they wanted something better for internal use, and now we get to use it also?


> My lord, why isn't Allo just Hangouts 3?

The same reason Duo isn't.

Both are substantial departures from what Hangouts was, with some overlap, and calling either Hangouts would create incorrect expectations.


> why isn't Allo just Hangouts 3?

From what I've read Allo will become the casual messaging app, and Hangouts for work. Google probably wants to compete with Slack and similar offers.

I wouldn't be surprised if at some point Google allows Allo and Hangouts to communicate.


Unfortunately it's a trend for Google to lose features in replacements and event new versions sometimes. I use Inbox for my personal gmail account, because I like how it lets me manage my personal mail. Unfortunately, there's still some integrations with calendars and stuff that doesn't work in Inbox but works in Gmail. And you can't search hangouts in Inbox (even though hangouts is integrated into it). Want to search hangouts message history? Open a tab and sign into gmail, and use that. Seriously, why do I have to lose so much of the functionality I grew accustomed to in the past when the app is from the same company? So frustrating.


I use Google Voice for a second phone number on my iPhone and yeah, it worries me how little attention it seems to get.

It took Google forever to update it to match the iOS 7 "flat" look. And to this day it's missing a pretty obvious feature: search! Yes, there is no search functionality in the Google Voice app on iPhone. Apple's Messages and Facebook Messenger both have it.


There is no search functionality in the hangouts app either. What other messaging apps lack the ability to search conversations? Google's own SMS messenger app implements search beautifully.


Well. Maybe it is not the same for you, but hangout messages get archived as emails in gmail. so search gmail maybe?


Also no API. Google Voice has been ignored for so long. Probably because it is not easy to advertise on or get data from


They definitely use the voicemail transcription feature as training/test data for their NLP stuff


> We can use it in the browser at work just by keeping Gmail open in a tab.

There's also https://hangouts.google.com/


The hangouts chrome extension is even handier while keeping your browser minimized.


Yes, good point -- forgot to mention that. That is a 3rd widely-available option across all three silos (Android/iOS/Desktop).


Yet apparently not business accounts. You can use the integrated hangouts in gmail, and the phone apps, but hangouts.google.com says it's not an enabled app for your account, and I can't seem to find where it's available to enable/add in the admin console (that is, I can find where to enable and add apps, but it isn't listed, and I'm a super admin). The Apps marketplace has third party apps, but that's not what I'm looking for.


I'm able to use hangouts.google.com in both my personal Google Apps domain and my work's Google Apps domain. Almost certainly a setting buried somewhere deep in the Admin Console. :(


Thanks for the heads up. Not that I know it's at least possible, I'll spend some time and did a little deeper. I'm interested in seeing how it compares to Slack (basically, how well it uses the defined groups and membership in them that are already configured).


Non-existent... at least in my experience with my Google Apps account.


hangouts.google.com is enabled on my business account. I didn't enable it, so I can't tell you how it was done. Only that it's possible.


Didn't know about that ! Interesting.


Breaking facebook messenger out into its own app was the best decision facebook ever made!

I chat via messenger a lot more than I check my newsfeed, and when I check my newsfeed I don't care about messages. Perfect split for me at least :)


I don't want Facebook Messenger, and the Facebook app cannot be uninstalled on my device since it came preinstalled with the Android OS on it (HTC One - it can however be disabled).

Now, if someone uses Facebook Messenger to send me a message, my Facebook app will notify me about unread messages - I've disabled most notifications, but the icon still gets a number increase indicating messages that can be read. These messages cannot be read from within the app without installing Messenger. Using the browser no longer work for reading these messages, since they are pushing the Messenger app.

The only sad part here are the few "friends" that actually write their messages to /dev/null trying to reach me...

I've been contemplating disabling my FB account altogether, but it turns out it is required sometimes for authentication. Spotify being an important one for me.


Have you tried removing your device here?

https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=security&section=sessi...


http://mbasic.facebook.com still has messages, which I was delighted to discover after having the same ongoing frustrations!


> Using the browser no longer work for reading these messages, since they are pushing the Messenger app.

Well, using the browser works, but you have to use "Request desktop page".


For me at least, the messenger is still working on Facebook.com, also on messenger.com. I'm sure it does for you too?


> Using the browser no longer work for reading these messages, since they are pushing the Messenger app.

Ditto. Works for me, too. I use FB.com to see messages on mobile Safari.

The only reason I don't use FB.com for everything is cause FB app allows me to upload video (but since I can't seem to get video posted to FB, via my iPhone 5C, to come out nicely, I'm going to delete the app too).


On Chrome on Android, at least, if you don't use "Request desktop site", you can't get messages on messenger.com or facebook.com (the messages icon doesn't even show up on the latter, and the former just directs you to an app download.)

You can use "request desktop site" on messenger.com (and probably also facebook.com), or use mbasic.facebook.com to get messages without the messenger app.


Here's what I get when I try to view my messages in the browser on my phone: http://m.imgur.com/oSuv6NH

If you force the desktop version of the page it works, but is awkward. Instead I use a web wrapper that has some other nice features, like showing me my messages with formatting that scales well to my phone's screen size


My bad, I only considered desktop access. I'm interested to know the name of he wrapper though.


Part of the problem is that they want to change the backends too. Hangouts had a lot of problems. Allo is their way of trying to create a clean slate and break away from the legacy of Hangouts. They can still keep Hangouts for some things, but they want to focus on a product that will get picked up by your average mobile user. People these days like using phone numbers for identification and a lot of users don't ever use a desktop. They're building for that user first. We'll see if it ever becomes a chat product the rest of us want to use.

For example of Hangouts issues, the SMS integration had all sorts of weird cases going on and wasn't reliable. I ended up having to turn it off to get texts for short-message texts from Google itself. I did some digging and since those came through a different channel somehow they were getting dropped by one of the systems and weren't getting flagged as needing to be delivered to me.

My wife also had three account entities for the same name in the Google system and sometimes her reply would get sent to a new chat. So about once a week my history with her would start fresh.

However, I agree that hangouts has been my preferred chat application for a long time and I'm disappointed how hard it is to get into the siloed worlds that a lot of chat apps have these days.


> For example of Hangouts issues, the SMS integration had all sorts of weird cases going on and wasn't reliable. I ended up having to turn it off to get texts for short-message texts from Google itself. I did some digging and since those came through a different channel somehow they were getting dropped by one of the systems and weren't getting flagged as needing to be delivered to me.

I had something similar to this happen a year or two ago. Messaged not showing up, or silently showing up later, and generally from one or two people of those I used hangouts with. In my case it was either a separate app that still thought it was the default SMS application (so Messages was default for SMS, but Hangouts was still set up to be integrated with SMS, or possibly it went weird if Messages was running even if Hangouts was the default SMS app), and once I disabled the old app, I got much more consistent behavior.


>break away from the legacy of Hangouts

Hangouts itself was supposed to be the "look at all the stuff we can do if we abandon XMPP" rewrite. And it's only three years old. How can they need to do it again?


"This is exactly why so many of my friends and family use Hangouts née Gmail Chat. We can use it in the browser at work just by keeping Gmail open in a tab. No IM applications to install or concerns about whether we're running Windows, OSX, or whatever."

That's exactly why I don't use browser-only IM clients. I don't want to keep open a full-fledged browser only to stay online when something much less would be sufficient. Ideally, a IM should offer a broad list of solutions: web-based, desktop native clients, mobile apps, and whatever else one might think about. One size fits all is only a sure way to self limit the adoption of your IM solution.


I dont see how breaking out the messaging part was bad, the messenger app is far superior to the normal one and the chatheads is great. has the same benefit as hangouts, (multiplatform)


Just speaking for myself but I liked being able to just open Facebook when I want to look at Facebook. That goes for PMs people send me on Facebook.

I didn't want a second app running at all times in the background when my goal was to minimize Facebook usage when possible.

Now I have to jump through hoops to check messages every once in a while on my phone because they make it so they won't show up on mobile unless you install their secondary app or switch to a desktop user agent.

So now I just check messages once or twice a week on desktop and use their service even less often.


+1

Once they add a Windows or Linux client I'll give Allo a try.

To me it's a bit distracting to abruptly interrupt a coding session and pull out my phone. Lately I've been trying to minimize distractions and stay in a terminal or development IDE as much as possible. I mentally view distractions similar to latency when accessing memory, something like:

  Look up info in terminal or IDE - comments within code, man pages, etc. <===> register access
  Desktop applications - PDF, Powerpoint slides, IM, etc.                 <===> L1 cache hit
  Google something (often results in reading articles, HN!, etc.)         <===> L2 cache hit
  Phone usage (apps, calls, etc.)                                         <===> Memory access
  In person chat (prone to rants/complaining, tangents, etc.)             <===> Disk access
  Meetings                                                                <===> Tape based storage :)


    Google something (often results in reading unrelated articles, "link dives", etc.)  <=====> Cache miss (?)


It's for exactly this reason that I'm creating a terminal-based calorie tracker. Working on finishing up the curses-like client so i can quickly type

    bogg 120 # consumed 120 calories
    bogg -120 biking # exercised 120 calories while biking
https://github.com/bo-gg/bogg-api

Once the command line portion is finished I plan to do a Show HN and hopefully people start using it.


faved this.


It's one of the social norms on HackerNews that "low-value" comments like "Love it! Thanks!" and "favorited" are discouraged. Although such comments are polite to the commenter, they add nothing but noise for all the other readers of the thread.

Instead, it seems to be preferred that you simply upvote the comment instead of replying.


People keep saying mobile is the future, however, I just can't imagine desktops leaving us anytime soon. If I'm on the go, then sure I want it on my mobile device, but 99% of the time when I'm at work I want quick and easy access either through an app or the browser on my desktop. If a service I use doesn't have a desktop app, then it likely won't receive any of my attention until I'm out of the office.


Exactly this: I wanted to send an annotated Google Map to someone. I started whilst on a train trip and with a series of silly screenshots (using an offline map app after having my network go up and down etc.) I got about half way done in 20 minutes. I got to my desk and restarted from scratch and got it done in about a minute. Obvious I know.

My point is my strange use-case (an annotated map) was an artifact I could assemble at a desktop from pre-existing bits I already had to hand, but with (current) mobile so many degrees of freedom are removed. Unless someone has (1) identified a mass need exactly the same as yours, and (2) made an app that does exactly that you are out of luck.


> Unless someone has (1) identified a mass need exactly the same as yours, and (2) made an app that does exactly that you are out of luck.

So true. And even if there was the need, and the app was made, you would never be able to find it in the app store without knowing it's exact name.


> Unless someone has (1) identified a mass need exactly the same as yours, and (2) made an app that does exactly that you are out of luck.

While this may be particularly true of mobile right now, I feel the above statement is, and has always been, true of software in general.

It's still early days for mobile, despite the amazing capability that's already there. It will get there eventually.


Until someone releases a revolutionary new way of interacting with a mobile device, larger devices—with dedicated, larger, more comfortable input and output methods—will always be more efficient. Software isn't the issue.


Possibly but there are fundamental limitations to having a small screen and no proper keyboard. I also annotated a map the other day on the macbook and have no great desire to do it by prodding the 4" bit of glass on my iPhone.


Desktop will always be around. I just think we are moving back to the 80s and 90s where only the "Super Tech" person owned them and the rest just didn't need them.

Mobile has replaced a lot of the way people spend time but for my interest and needs desktop is king. I don't watch movies on my desktop (YouTube yes) but I also don't do video editing and data science on a phone.


Also "desktop" is much less stuck on desks than it was. I'm typing this from an 11" macbook air lying on the grass in a park tethered to 4G via the phone so the thing's pretty mobile although it's "desktop" from the software point of view. I think that may be where the futures headed rather than people just using ios/android.


No I 100% mean desktop. I still have never personally bought a laptop (Work gives me them). I prefer the faster machines with dual monitors and awesome mouse and keyboard ready to go all the time.


I agree with you completely. At some point the laptop became 'the default computer'. I went laptop-only for most of the span 2006 - 2011, before adopting a workstation (with dual 1440p monitors, a nice keyboard, a mouse, and my precious Linux) as my primary computing device again.

I couldn't go back for anything. I simply couldn't. I have a fairly light and portable laptop with a 13" screen that I carry around from time to time, and it's a vastly more constrained computing experience.


You will find that the vast majority of people doesn't care for faster machines. I think Microsoft's Continuum is the way to go. People will just connect their huge displays + mice/keyboards to their phones to avoid the trouble of syncing data.


I think PC gaming has been growing in popularity, i dont see that being overtaken by mobile anytime soon, as i dont see mobile being competitive with desktop GPUs anytime soon (let alone RAM, cpu, cooling, power availability, etc)

Also, with the growing trend of 'cord-cutting' i think more and more people are hooking their laptops up to their TVs and watching netflix and youtube that way. Though the trend in that space seems to be pointing more toward curated ecosystems like roku, apple tv, etc.

But i think eventually for pretty much anything else the hardware and software will reach a point where you can dock your phone into some cradle and that will be your desktop environment also - this has been tried and failed many times, but its usually because the performance just isnt there to be competitive with real computers.


>Also, with the growing trend of 'cord-cutting' i think more and more people are hooking their laptops up to their TVs and watching netflix and youtube that way. Though the trend in that space seems to be pointing more toward curated ecosystems like roku, apple tv, etc.

I have been doing this for some time now. My laptop hooked up to my TV serves me for gaming (helps that a lot of PC games support controllers now), consuming content and music all without being crippled by consumer hardware restrictions.


Target market may be a factor here as well? Notice where the rollout started: India[0]. This goes along with Google's push to support the Next Billion Users[1]. I'm sure the team working on Allo and Duo want to support people that move regularly between Desktop and Mobile, but at the same time they want to reach out to people that are just starting to connect to the internet. Allo's initial target market may not be the HN crowd.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12545596

[1] https://www.techinasia.com/googles-reach-billion-users


I think it's a pipe dream to imagine that all future interactions will be through mobile devices like phones. The way I see it mobile is adding extra time spent with tech instead of replacing desktop entirely. People spend more time online then they used to, a lot of it due to mobile devices becoming common place. Some time that used to be spent on desktop is migrating but not all of it. Desktop and Laptops will be a thing for a long time.

Another thing I find annoying is we went from mobile first to mobile only for a lot of things. The point of mobile first was to ensure that the less capable devices were not second rate citizens to desktop. Not that they are the only thing customers will use to access services.


Either you are misinterpreting those people, or they are wrong. The point is we were doing 100% of everything on desktop. However it turns out mobile is a better platform for >50% of tasks, that's why it's king.


> it turns out mobile is a better platform for >50% of tasks

For the tasks we do >50% of the time, maybe. But no way it's better for >50% of the tasks.


I'd agree with you, wrong choice of words on my side.


Definitely doesn't make sense. I use hangouts constantly. It is my default app for SMS and chatting with family. I like having one consistent thread between different desktop devices, as well as mobile. Yes Slack has replaced it for work, but that's no good for family, at least not mine. Until this has desktop support there is no reason for me to buy in. Why not have (one of) the most important feature of hangouts (and all of the other competitors) on these new apps?


For SMSs too? On my Android, the new(ish?) message app ("Messenger") now wanted control of SMSs back from hangouts. Another silly reversal, and another silly messaging app from Google. Fourth time lucky?

On that topic, when is the inbox app replacing the gmail app?

Maybe never and that's good, given that sometimes I cannot download attachments with the inbox app that I can happily download from the old gmail app right away.


I still can't figure out how to find archived messages in Inbox.


search?


Offline, I mean. As in "I read an email just before going offline, now can I re-open that email".


Has Inbox gained the ability to have recipient lists?


> I like having one consistent thread between different desktop devices, as well as mobile.

Too bad they killed SMS history combining.


Google wants to own the whole IT stack from servers and software services to devices. It supported the entrenched alternatives (Windows and Macs) when it had no alternative, but now it won't, unless it really has to.

In Google's thinking, the whole IT stack is Google cloud-based, and in the long term, people having "different desktop devices" isn't the right way to go.

Yes, this is overstatement for sarcastic effect, but the trend seems to be real....


You don't need a Google account to use Allo. Being phone-number driven for setup and how you are identified within the App is really the key to answering your questions.

From articles/reviews of the app from official publications, Google is saying a Desktop app is in the works, it's just not ready yet.


I hate this sudden desire to have every account keyed on a phone number. I know 3 phone numbers - mine, my wife's and my parent's. Oh, I still remember my friends from elementary school's parent's phone numbers too, but honestly, I haven't had to think about learning a new phone number in over a decade. I'm honestly about an inch away from shutting off my own phone number, which has been a google voice number for 6 years now, because the only calls I ever get on it are spammers asking me about my electric bill. People who I care about email me, or use google talk/Hangouts. I know all my friend's email addresses. Email addresses are customizable and easy to remember. We don't need to keep working around a 100 year old call routing problem by memorizing area codes and routing exchanges. Hangouts, or Google Talk used to support people signing up with whatever their email address was, and you could reach them by knowing their email address. Why am I being asked to think about 10 digit geographically segregated numbers again?!


right, so just add phone number accounts to hangouts.


It really should've been that simple. Then take from allo incognito conversations, stickers, and smart replies, and you just have a nice hangouts update.


I totally agree and am so glad to see someone else here to feels similarly to me.

There are already good text messaging apps. For a general messaging solution, I don't want something tied down exclusively to my phone. If the emphasis is on photo sharing (e.g., Snapchat), then that can still make sense. But if the emphasis is just on text, then I want to be able to use a desktop or web app whenever I'm using a laptop or desktop. Not being able to do so is honestly a dealbreaker for me.


I agree wholeheartedly. After installing on my Android, I almost immediately tried to install on my iPod, only to have my Android instance immediately sign out.


Google has been very noticeably anti-desktop for a while now. They sure bet the future would be mobile/chrome OS like devices or they hate desktop development.

I love Google Music but there is no desktop client for it and without a desktop client integration with hardware keys or caching/downloading/syncing music like spotify or iTunes is impossible.

It's the same story with Google Photos. I love it but they decided to shutdown picasa web albums and I don't think they'd ever build a desktop client.

Google operates differently from the rest. It's not for people like us who use a desktop/laptop.


For Google, the web is the desktop. They have a Google Music desktop client: it's any standards compliant browser (yes, it has access to files and filesystem sync). And because it's the web, it supports Windows, Mac, or Linux.


Of course, there aren't any ads to be served on the desktop, you could be shudder offline.


I liked it back when Facebook had a XMPP gateway for the messaging, as then i could set up Pidgin on my Linux desktop to keep in touch with the relatives.

This is why open protocols exist, ffs...


I use WhatsApp Web quite a lot, it's not perfect, but it's a nice interface to use when you have access to a desktop/laptop and can continue your conversations there.


But forget to touch your phone for a couple of minutes and the web session will automatically disconnect because the phone went to standby mode, which apparently interferes with the sync between the mobile application and the web browser session. My experience is that I can only rely on the web for a short conversation until my phone goes to sleep.


Used to be my main reason to promote Telegram.

Of course now that Facebook owns Whatsapp and has decided (again) to show users what fools they where and who is the boss, all the more reasons to promote Telegram, matrix, irc etc ;-)


This is why I use Telegram, and why I don't use Signal. I love the desktop client.

My hands are big, and I've always hated writing on phones. On my computer I can blast away messages on my glorious mechanical keyboard.


It's not without a few (non-dealbreaker, at least for me) bugs but Signal-desktop works well.


Last time I looked, Signal Desktop required Chrome, which I won't use for privacy concerns.


This obviously depends on the phone OS, but in Android 7.0 you can add an exception for whatsapp from the deep sleep the phone enters.


As a datapoint, I don't believe this occurs on iOS.


It does not. It's specific to the Android app, and also happens when using the android app on Sailfish OS and alike.


Exactly why I wish they'd just focus on Hangouts. I might actually use it on desktop at work more than on mobile, but I like having the flexibility.


I'm willing to bet that Allo (app) is their MVP.

Hopefully we'll see chat sync, SMS support, Google Voice support, Desktop App in the pipeline.


Sure, but wouldn't you have also made that bet about Hangouts a few years ago? And then about Messenger? And then about Hangouts (again)? Google always looks like they have a plan, provided you ignore everything they've done prior to about 10 minutes ago.


Hangouts came with SMS and Desktop, iirc - as it was supposed to be an immediately migration from Google Talk. It then later got Google Voice, later got MMS, continued to "improve" (feature wise - but was terrible)

Messenger - if you're referring to the Android app - was just an SMS app from the start and nobody expected anything more from it


I agree completely. I use google voice and also like to send text messages from my computer.

I'm sitting here all day long at work. I do not like reaching for my phone and typing long messages on there.


I have to imagine that's on the radar. They were possibly under time pressure. The problem is, I can't use this until then, and by then there will be no hype left.


For better experience across desktop and mobile, I use Telegram. It doesn't need a phone to be around after a one-time activation and also allows a passcode to be set to access messages on the desktop.

I have also started using Wire for the same reason, and even better, since it offers end-to-end encryption by default.


> one of the main reasons we tend to use WhatsApp and Slack, even for corporate communications as silly as that sounds -- because you can type long messages on it on the keyboard/desktop but also have access to it on the go.

WhatsApp does not run on tablets... period.


You can use Whatsapp web in a tablet. I guess it isn't officially supported because you have to request the desktop version, but it works.


My thoughts exactly. Also, why did they do it? Don't we have enough messenging apps already?


So now google has Voice, Messenger, Hangouts, Allo, and Duo all with overlapping functionality? I wish they would just focus on making Hangouts work really well.


There was a NYtimes article a few years ago, which I thought perfectly captured the fundamental difference between Apple and Google's product planning process.

Apple runs on Intelligent Design. You have a room full of geniuses who decide what to build, make sure it fits perfectly into their overall product portfolio with minimal overlap or cannibalization, spend years in a dark secret room building it until it's perfectly polished, and then do a big-bang launch.

Google on the other hand, runs on evolution. You've got tens of thousands of smart people all over the company, each with their own cool ideas and visions. Director #1 decides it would be cool to have a single unified messaging/video app that works across all platforms; Director #2 decides it would be cool to have a messaging app that's perfectly customized for mobile phones and Random-Guy #3 decides to do a 20℅ project on a messaging app that integrates AI functionality. Instead of trying to pick a winner, and telling everyone else to abandon their projects, Google allows all 3 visions to play themselves out on a small scale, and then doubles down on the winner. Rather than having a perfect product portfolio like Apple, Google is almost like an incubator, full of interesting ideas and projects, even if they lack the structure that comes with Central Planning.

The downside of course, is brand confusion and dilution. People looking for a messaging app, and not having the time to explore all options thoroughly, will have a hard time figuring out which Google-messaging-app to go with. If they pick a non-optimal one, it's going to hurt the Google brand in their eyes. But the upside is innovation. Allowing multiple ideas to play themselves out at the same time, allows for so much more innovation, experimentation and iteration. And ultimately, I think those are the qualities that Google wants to prioritize.


The Google approach would be great, if they just separated it from the Google brand.

Like, when Unilever launch a new detergent, they give it a totally separate brand. If it fails, they drop it quietly, and if it succeeds they can roll it out worldwide.

I wish Google would do the same. Launch this as 'allo', with the fact that it's from alphabet buried in the small print. Once it's been doing well for a couple of years, they can think about pulling it into the Google brand and pushing it to every user in the world.


Without brand it's hard to stand out in the crowded messaging space.


Honestly crap like this is devaluing their brand. At this point I have 0 faith that Google will stick to any of their random products (Google Wave, Buzz, Reader, Code, Google+) and therefore I avoid using them.


It really is devaluing the brand. Bring back Google Talk.


Google had corporate/cross platform messaging before it was cool. Gmail, Google Talk was a killer combo for our small teams.

Dumb dumb dumb.


Google Talk was perfect. PER-FECT. Of course they killed it!


They didn't even properly kill it, they just let it slowly stagnate.

Like they're doing with Hangouts now. No real new features have appeared in years.


I really miss Google reader.


Feedly isn't bad. I have been with them since Reader was shut down.


That's precisely the point. It should compete on its own merits.


I think danohu's point was that with branding, it's hard to stand out in the crowded Google messaging space.


Two easy ways to stand out:

1. Brand 2. Money

If they took this approach it would require a much more concerted marketing strategy.


Well they happen to be in the marketing business so...


Google/Alphabet are not in the marketing business. In fact they have pretty awful marketing. They are in the displaying ads business.


Exactly.

Disney has Miramax for films that don't fit under the Disney brand.

Toyota has the Scion brand for quirky, weird car designs.

Google could have a brand for experimental apps that they're not sure about.


That's what Google Labs was. If they had kept Google Labs and released some of these products under that brand, people might not be as worried about them killing the full-fledged Google projects when experiments are ended.


eh, Google Labs is still very obviously Google though. the idea would be, for each new product, to create an entirely new brand with no obvious connection to Google, that Google could later bring on full time if they decide they're ready to commit

for example, "Google Allo" could have just been released as "Allo", separate website and everything, and if Google feels it's working out and is the future of their messaging platform, eventually officially bring it in to the Google ecosystem. sort of like a buyout


Use the Nexus brand for them. It's not like they're using that anymore.


I don't think Scion is a good example. They sold _exactly_ same cars under Toyota brand outside of NA market. The Scion brand was more about flat price and limited options.

And now it is dead.


Hell, it might be great if they'd just actually do that part about "doubling down on the winner".


If they are going to launch it and hide that it's from Alphabet, why not just let non-Alphabet companies make those products and then buy the most successful one?

That's what Facebook did.


The flip-side of the coin of "brand confusion" is the user's perspective of cognitive overload, technical frustration from UX churn, and being left behind after adopting a dead-end "product".


> Director #1 decides it would be cool to have a single unified messaging/video app that works across all platforms; Director #2 decides it would be cool to have a messaging app that's perfectly customized for mobile phones and Random-Guy #3 decides to do a 20℅ project on a messaging app that integrates AI functionality. Instead of trying to pick a winner, and telling everyone else to abandon their projects, Google allows all 3 visions to play themselves out on a small scale

Yes, absolutely!!

> and then doubles down on the winner

…I'm not so sure about that step ;-)


Oh, it’s much worse than that. Once you add in Google’s platform (Android), you get even more “visions” such as the “pre-Google open-source variant” of an Android app (before Google’s fork of it to add “improvements”), and usually at least one crappy version installed by the phone carrier. And typically none of these can be removed, all part of the ROM. I remember seeing at least THREE variants of several common apps when using Android. I couldn’t believe it was so unfocused.


They still have their XMPP as well, but they never enabled SSL so it sends messages in plaintext and won't federate to modern XMPP servers/clients.

What a clusterfuck of a company.


Agreed they never appreciated what they had with Google Talk. Closing XMPP support and have it replaced by Hangouts was a huge mistake.


> Closing XMPP support and have it replaced by Hangouts was a huge mistake.

It wasn't a mistake, it was deliberate with the intention to lock in users.


The federation thing is something they explicitly broke. Google talk could talk to other XMPP servers just fine


Calling Google a clusterfuck of a company is appalling. They would not do this without a strategic thought. Even Facebook has Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and FB itself. All doing pretty well.


> They would not do this without a strategic thought

But, as the saying goes, "the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry".

Google really does have a really skittish habit of acquisitions, creations, and closures. Remember 'buzzing' with your email? Remember Wave, the product that not even Google knew what to do with? Having a large assortment of applications in your portfolio isn't what is being criticized when calling Google a "clusterfuck", it's the strangeness by which this portfolio is managed. Products rise and fall seemingly without a lot of warning. Some are integrated into others, others are heavily promoted while others are left to fester. With Facebook's acquisitions, they mostly are left to run on their own, just under Facebook control with Facebook slowly sliding their tendrils into each app. (We see this with Whatsapp, Instagram is overrun with ads), but the products themselves aren't integrated or changed dramatically for the end user.

With Google, it's really difficult to get excited or really heavily invested in products that aren't called Gmail because it's just really hard to tell what the product is going to be doing even half a year down the line, or if it will even exist. This isn't "like all other products", this is a statement based off of how Google historically has operated.

It's great that Google is willing to take risks, but they keep pushing these new ventures as having re-invented the wheel and all of the ventures require quite a bit of buy-in from the end-users; if it fails for Google, they write it off since they can. End users are left with a obsolete product they likely intended to use for a heck of a lot longer.

So yeah, when you have Google releasing new apps that compete with already existing Google Apps (as well as a multitude of other similar apps from other companies), I think it's fair to wonder what is going on. Even if there is a strategy, I'm not convinced that it's much more than "let's see if people like this better than ____", which isn't exactly a winning strategy in my book.

Allo/Duo just don't really seem to offer much that doesn't already exist, and their release makes me suspicious about whether or not their current message/video/voice service, Hangouts, is about to get axed or left in the dust or what.


"Clusterfuck" is a perfect description.

No one is saying that the clusterfuck isn't valuable, profitable, or useful. They're just saying it's a clusterfuck.

The LA freeway system is a clusterfuck, but without it the city wouldn't work. We can still criticize LA's lack of a good transportation system, and recognize that something more organized would be, well, better.


Those portfolios are not even remotely compatible. Hangouts is the only viable product there. Meanwhile, all of Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and FB are each very strong products with extremely, almost worrisomely strong network effects. Clusterfuck is a bit vague and maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but you've got to admit that it's truly hard to think of Google as a company that makes best-in-class consumer software products anymore.


Google has seven products that are used by more than a billion users per month. They are the only company in the world that can say that - that by definition IS best in class.


On an unrelated note Zuckerberg really is a genius.

Instagram and WhatsApp were in hindsight superb purchases since the network effects have turned out to be far stronger than I think most people ever expected. Likewise splitting out Messenger makes so much sense since companies are now targeting it for their AI/Bot strategies.


Google never was a company that made best in class consumer software products. Search (maybe Maps?) is the only thing it's ever excelled at.


GMail was definitely best in class for web mail when it rolled out, and if something has taken its lead, I don't know what it is.


I would argue it's advertising delivery.


Search, Maps, Gmail, Photos, YouTube are all best in their field. They have a lot of products that are more niche but their core lineup is solid.


what about gmail?


How did that strategy work for Buzz, Wave, Lively, Jaiku, Meebo and Talk?

Their strategy seems to be throwing stuff at the wall and trying to get something to stick.


And when it does stick, half the time they ignore it while it oozes down the wall anyways. Hangouts was a success but they treat it like a failure.


It does indeed appear to be their strategy; although it seems to work well enough for them. It's just a bit frustrating for users who periodically lose an app they came to depend on.


Does it work for them, though? I don't remember their successful products arising from this process; they never had a bunch of email services before Gmail, nor multiple mobile OSs before Android, nor different browsers before Chrome, etc. The closest might be Google Video before YouTube, but it wasn't really the same kind of product.


> The closest might be Google Video before YouTube, but it wasn't really the same kind of product.

Also YouTube was already the dominant player (beating google video) by the time google acquired it. It wasn't built by google


Facebook and Instagram are social networks for sharing content. They aren't messaging platforms.

And WhatsApp is an independent company.

It makes zero sense to compare it to Google which is absolutely a mess.


So let me get this straight, it works with older XMPP servers, but not modern, up to date versions of said servers?


No, it doesn't.

Google tore down the federation on purpose, with a configuration change. Rumour has it that it was a spam response.

There's an interesting similar spam campaign going on right now in email, BTW. https://wordtothewise.com/2016/09/ongoing-subscription-form-...


Google really has nailed usability with Duo. It's clean and fast and easy to use. The potential is there. If I was optimistic, I'd say their strategy will be to force their way into the market by integrating it into the OS via Contacts or maybe even lower.

Of course Hangouts had potential too. And then Slack came along and ate their lunch on the business side. It's really kind of ridiculous that every single organization that I know of that uses Google Apps has decided to ignore Hangouts and use Slack instead. How shitty must your free group chat client be that your customers are paying to replace it...

I feel like Google is my corporate spirit animal because we operate the exact same why. We both like to start super cool side projects, get 70% of the way through it and then just completely lose interest.


Huh.. I had never looked at Duo and I scrolled down the landing page and saw "Preview incoming video calls before accepting them" and now I want FaceTime and Skype to immediately integrate that..

That's a killer feature..


Maybe it's just me, but I kind of find this a bit creepy. It seems to me that it would be similar if the phone companies allowed you to listen to someone calling you while it was still ringing for them.

Maybe it's not quite what I am thinking though. I can't tell if the video preview is live or if it's something recorded before the call is made.


> Maybe it's just me, but I kind of find this a bit creepy.

As long as the person on the other end knows that he's on-camera, I think it's NBD. The trick is ensuring that eh really does know that, and isn't picking his teeth, washing his hands &c.


Actually the person calling is on camera and the person on the receiving end sees the preview. Person on the receiving end is not on the camera until they accept the call.


That's what I meant — the caller is on-camera, the callee is not, the caller knows he's on-camera, all is well with the world.


It's live, and it says at the top: "the camera is on" basically. It's like the call already started as far as the caller is concerned -- no ringing necessary.


I screen lots of calls via the ansaphone on my landline. It's a feature I would miss if I went mobile-phone-only.

I like the idea for video calls too.


The person calling is the one who is being previewed. As the caller you can disable it if you don't like the feature.


Why? Are you going to decline calls based on the preview? How do you explain that to the other person?


> Are you going to decline calls based on the preview? How do you explain that to the other person?

From the calling end, the person just sees that you didn't pick up, right? So he wouldn't know that you declined because of the preview.


In the end, I see all these apps dying. Even hangouts is crappy. They don't have a native mac client. Hangouts was a decent chat app they had. I wish they promoted hangouts as cross platform and as a competitor to both whatsapp and skype.


It's not a perfect solution but you can log into your Hangouts account on OS X's Messages app, so you can largely combine iMessage and Hangouts on your desktop in one app if you use both.

I'm often surprised how many people don't know that Messages semi-supports Hangouts (not implying that you don't)..

Obviously things like video chat don't work, so it's more like what Google Talk used to be, but it's better than keeping 2 apps open.


The Mac client for Hangouts got a big upgrade. It's not really native, but more like Slack (Electron).


Electron "apps" really suck honestly. They're very slow and large and eat memory.


And battery life.


The only killer feature that hangouts has is that it's the only reliable way to talk to any of your friends that work at google.


I think the way they see it is:

Voice is basically deprecated

Hangouts is enterprise

Allo and Duo compete with Whatsapp/iMessage and Facetime/Skype respectively


Not quite:

- Facebook Messenger combines all the functionality of Allo and Duo. - Whatsapp already has voice calling and is adding video soon (so I read on the internet) - iMessage and Facetime integrate in IOS much better than Google Duo does. In IOS, you go to a contact and press facetime. On Android, you go to a contact... then go back out to Duo and call them.

WeChat, of course, does everything that all these apps will ever do - as of many years ago.


I feel like ICQ 98 was the pinnacle of chat applications. Floating contacts and email style messages... brilliance.


The "find random chat partner" feature was so addictive!


> email style messages

Care to elaborate? I'm having trouble picturing what you mean. Long form with styling?


Strongly agree. It's still unsurpassed. And it worked well on systems with 64mb of RAM (maybe even less) without stomping all over the rest of the programs you were running. Seems like no-one can even "Hello World" a desktop app these days without a 100mb download and requiring several hundred MB of memory all to itself.


I was visiting China recently and started using WeChat... it really is far ahead of other messaging apps, the amount of integration with other services is staggering (many shops offer payment through the app, QR codes to link to WeChat are commonplace, even my hotel advertised its wifi settings through WeChat!)

I wonder if WeChat will try to push the service more outside of China?


you can call/message a person from contact page directly, I have done that with whatsapp


Duo competes with Facetime, except it's not integrated in Contacts and I can't imagine why. Duo and Facetime don't compete with Skype because they don't have the IM part which is a very important component of Skype. I used it for all these years as an IM client (business or friends), less as audio and rarely as video. But video is always the least used form of communication. Still I'd like to see some global usage stats of Skype: minutes by chat, voice, video. My customers, friends and I could be the outliers.


but hangouts lacks things which are useful for enterprises such as video recording (it's possible only if you make a "hangout on air", afaiu) and, in my experience, screen sharing text/code is painful because of the video encoding making it unreadable.

To me hangouts looks like a competitor to Skype only, at this time.


Hangouts on air is being replaced by Youtube Live


Except that Skype can be used for text chat like Allo.

And Apple doesn't really treat Facetime as an app.


> And Apple doesn't really treat Facetime as an app.

It's a separate app on the iPhone, no?


Voice is the most separate and distinct. I use my google voice number whenever I sell or buy anything on CL and I'm sure there are many other more creative uses.


I was really hoping to see some love for Voice on iOS 10 after they added the new messaging and voip features, but I doubt there is much hope of that actually happening. They have yet to release a version suitable for iPad, let alone integrating with new features.


I just use it to manage my voicemail, are there any viable alternatives?


Don't worry, they'll discontinue the most popular one on a whim once people love it.


and their jabber, which used to be useful for desktop IM got converted into an sms replacement forced on everyone against their will who uses android.

Upshot now if you use xmpp like you always did it's received as sms which is probably not what you wanted. Thanks google.

So get into bed with them by all means, but don't be suprised once you're tied up they flip you over.


Oh and encryption. That's not default like it should be, it's a "Mode within" that you have to select. Which people won't because of the hassle and mass surveillance continues.

If they made the bloody thing properly encrypted end to end all the time I could forgive them for their blatant bait and switch, for keeping everyone's email searchable by the nsa in gmail (whether you use it or not, your mail is there) and all the rest. But no, surveillance is what google do and they're addicted to it.

Do no evil, yeah they announced they dropped that, didn't they?


> Which people won't because of the hassle and mass surveillance continues.

That's why they added it. Now they can market it as "we have encryption too", but it's so out of the primary experience that not many will bother with it. E2E has become a checkmark to list, because most don't care about the most important part - how it works.

It's similar with Facebooks secret messages, where the secret messages are apart from regular ones.

Lets face it: the only thing this was built is Google collecting data to feed the "Google assistant".


Now you know how many teams Google has working on messengers.


They also have 'Spaces'.


I just bought the Nexus 5x and it had both Hangouts and Messenger downloaded. I use messenger but google needs to just focus on one strong app. It is annoying to have one app that has great features, but not all. Messenger is great, but Duo looks interesting too.


W8, what's Voice, Messenger and Duo?


I really wish they wouldn't overload terms that they themselves invented. In Chrome, "incognito" means we don't save your local history, but it does not add to the transport security. Here, "incognito" means you've got end-to-end encryption (and presumably also doesn't save local history).

Why on earth would you re-use the same term when naming two things with similar (thus easily confused) consumer-visible attributes but completely different security guarantees?!


For most people, in both cases "incognito" means "porn mode".

Chrome: "Won't save your (porn) history"

Allo: "features like discreet notifications and message expiration" (ie, for sending naked pics)

The transport layer security is great too, but for a lot of people "message expiration" is the key feature.


I believe it's a bit different.

It could be different for shared computers, but, I think, for porn browsing on one's own hardware, incognito mode is more about having a separate (ephemeral) browser profile, so you aren't accidentally sharing your kinks on Facebook and Google won't (visibly, at least) associate it with your main browsing profile and won't show you relevant ads there.

A comparable feature for the IM world would be "alter ego"/pseudonymous mode, where your contacts aren't provided with your identity information (google account/phone numbers/etc - not even your "normal" name or nickname), but a throw-away identities, yet you still have a convenience of using a single app. Not really private in a sense your favorite TLA won't know you, but good enough in a sense your peers won't know you. I don't think any IM system does that, without setting up separate accounts.

I mean, "self-destructing" messages weren't there in a lot of systems, and users perfectly know how to delete SMS or emails they don't want to keep - and saving the ones they do. Not to say "message expiration" is a myth (haven't they learned it with Snapchat already?)

Maybe that's just my view of things, though.


I read this and then I read this -

Google backs off on previously announced Allo privacy feature (http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/21/12994362/allo-privacy-mess...)

Performance for privacy - LOL


I would have shrugged if the performance over privacy idea had to do with just some random app, but this is a messaging app where privacy will for many reasons be paramount. :S


End-to-end encryption from your phone to Google's server, where neural networks now analyze all your data, Super cute! Lovely Labrador!


From their FAQ:

"Your chats are end-to-end encrypted and can only be seen by you and the person you're chatting with. Google can't read any of your messages, so you won't see any Smart Reply or Google Assistant features."

https://support.google.com/allo/answer/6383724?ref_topic=637...


Meanwhile with iMessages encryption is standard and "quick reply" + "App interactions" are available...

So basically at Google encryption is a separate feature and come at the cost of the others cool features. This combined with the confusion between "incognito mode" and "porn mode" may contribute to a slow adoption of crypto-features in Allo IMHO...


Who validates that that statement is indeed true, we in our naivety should just plain believe it?


As much as people like a good conspiracy, that would be a pretty pointless one. There are tens of thousands people at google who could look at the source code, many of them with a left-wing/civil liberties attitude.

To get all of them to stay silent, and to evade analysis of the binary is, if not impossible, simply not worth whatever they could get out of reading my messages (esp. considering their uninterrupted stream of emails to read).

It's also why the concept of "brands" makes more sense than may are willing to admit: a blatant lie such as this would probably be worse for google than VWs little problem. Reading someone's private stuff is just bound to rouse more emotions than whatever comes out of the back of your car.


> many of them with a left-wing/civil liberties attitude.

Well they seem awfully quiet about all the privacy invading stuff Google does, considering the number you claim they're in.


It's probably easy to dismiss/justify some of those things when you can view the code yourself to see that nothing "bad" is happening (at least at the current time). It's a little harder to rectify Google blatantly lying about something e2e encryption even if nothing "bad" is happening with it.


Yeah right.

http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/21/12994362/allo-privacy-mess...

"Allo messages will still be encrypted between the device and Google servers, and stored on servers using encryption that leaves the messages accessible to Google’s algorithms."

[....]

"The decision will also have significant consequences for law enforcement access to Allo messages. By default, Allo messages will now be accessible to lawful warrant requests, the same as message data in Gmail and Hangouts and location data collected by Android. "


> The version of Allo rolling out today will store all non-incognito messages by default — a clear change from Google’s earlier statements that the app would only store messages transiently and in non-identifiable form. The records will now persist until the user actively deletes them, giving Google default access to a full history of conversations in the app. Users can also avoid the logging by using Allo’s Incognito Mode, which is still fully end-to-end encrypted and unchanged from the initial announcement.

> Like Hangouts and Gmail, Allo messages will still be encrypted between the device and Google servers, and stored on servers using encryption that leaves the messages accessible to Google’s algorithms.

Translation:

- Incognito messages will not be logged, and will be encrypted end-to-end.

- Non-incognito messages will transit over SSL, and be stored on Google's servers in an encrypted form that they will have access to (presumably this "encryption" is to prevent hackers gaining a DB dump from getting everything in plaintext).

- Non-incognito messages will be logged indefinitely, unless a user explicitly deletes them. (This is a change from what was previously announced at Google I/O)

Correct me if I'm missing something.


> all non-incognito messages


As much as you would any other company - Apple, for example - unless someone trawls through the source code to verify the claim.


Exactly, but somehow many seem to believe Google is different.


The encryption for incognito actually is Moxie’s protocol, as used in Signal and WhatsApp. The one single good thing about allo.


Just recently there was a HN post about security bugs in Signal. Signal is open source and the bugs will be fixed at some point, but I wouldn't trust all these proprietary apps will follow the lead so fast.


"We've released an update to the Android app (3.19.0) which includes a fix. Signal for iOS and Desktop were not affected, nor were other consumers of Signal Protocol. Non-attachment message confidentiality and integrity was not affected. We're publishing our analysis to make as much information available as possible, but given both the limited impact of this bug and the set of circumstances necessary to exploit it, we consider this to have been of low risk to Signal for Android users."

https://whispersystems.org/blog/signal-android-attachment-bu...


If there is one think I'd trust about Google is them to be serious about security vulnerability.


But that's end to middle encryption!


Middle-out encryption ...? :)


But perhaps middle out compression?


You must live in a bubble or have never worked at a large company before. There are two totally different teams building these products. Is it really that inconceivable for them (yes, even Google) to make this oversight?


Are you trying to suggest there are employees at Google that don't know what incognito mode is in chrome? More specifically, every employee that worked on this project?


I feel like incognito mode has been around long enough that this isnt a valid excuse.


If you read the blog post you might have noticed that they specifically mention Chrome's Incognito mode.

> But we went a step beyond this and we created a mode within Google Allo called Incognito (h/t Chrome).


I guess overloading a term with similarly-themed features ~= branding.


The worst was "Off the Record", which, for an XMPP service, didn't mean the "Off the Record" encryption protocol, it means "we don't log messages to your own email inbox."

It's another dark pattern from an unscrupulous company.


I doubt anyone has ever confused the two. "Off the record" is a well known phrase in our culture. The "off the record" protocol is not very well known.


Lots of speculation about how long these apps will last. I personally suspect it's Hangouts that will be chopped. Google looked at Facebook Messenger and realised that the future was in personal assistants and the illusion of virtual/simulated AI, and realised also that Hangouts would become an unmanageable mess with more features added, so they are rolling out a Messenger competitor and a Hangouts video replacement with a transitional period to assess both feasibility, interest and to enable Hangouts customers to explore alternatives ahead of the shutdown, while attracting new business along the way.

Personally, I like Duo because I can talk to my partner with video even though my partner is on Android and is a bit of a technophobe.

The almost-too-simple UI is much easier for my partner to use than Hangouts, and Skype is a dog. I also do not use Facebook.

Google, like Apple now, and like Microsoft before it, is playing catch-up to Facebook and arguably has been since Google+. It's like Hollywood: remakes are far from innovative and are loathed by many who liked the originals or who crave fresh material, but a remake is much easier to get through the boardroom and easier to make profitable. Google should be pushing the boundaries but it's afraid of tarnishing its credibility with potentially bad decisions. They also want to appear active I suppose, and to collect what data they can from people who are likely to be loyal to a Google competitor to Facebook.

I think Google should be thinking doing more than buying up tech talent in acquihires and inflating an already bloated app ecosystem that threatens what business they already have, but I'm not a business person.


I believe they've previously discussed Hangouts becoming business focused. Allo, I think, has the potential to replace the default SMS app (similar to iMessage).


Maybe, if they get rid of this boneheaded SMS relay bullshit. It's not 2008 anymore, iMessage got transparent SMS<->internet messaging right like 4 years ago.


I'm getting really confused. I work at a school where we wanted to do cheap and cheerful Webinars. Hangouts, with the ability to record to a Youtube channel looked ideal, but the repositioning of products is so rapid, I guess I may have to look at this all again.


Why isn't it always end to end encryption? I'm getting really paranoid and crochety in my old age of 29, as all I see is a tool to make me the product.


I am like you. In the past I wouldn't pay attention to privacy issues and I would enjoy free services such as Google Drive or Facebook Messenger, but that recently changed. In my case, the trigger was exactly the thought that you expressed so effectively:

> All I see is a tool to make me the product.

I think you're right, and you're not paranoid at all.

I'm now using only open source tools both on PC and on Android (courtesy of F-Droid), switched from Gmail to Mailbox.org and from Chrome to Firefox with all privacy settings turned on (no tracking, no long term cookies etc.), switched from GDrive and Dropbox to my own private cloud solution (using a NAS + Owncloud), started using PGP for email, and currently trying to get my friends to use Signal for instant messaging.

First world problems? Maybe, but I don't like to be sold in exchange for free-of-charge services.


>> First world problems? Maybe, but I don't like to be sold in exchange for free-of-charge services.

Switched from Chrome to Firefox as well. I switched to Microsoft cloud products ( Office, 'SkyDrive' or whatever it's called now ) to get away from Google, or at least from having so many eggs in the Google basket.

I don't like being sold either. It makes me feel like a slave.


it's not always-on end-to-end encryption because the standout feature is the google assistant. literally the whole selling point of the app is that google is always listening in. If you want google's assistant to not be continually monitoring your conversations, then allo is definitely not the app for you.


Exactly, it's the usual trade-off: convenience vs. privacy. I much prefer the latter, though.


Why not have end-to-end encryption except for replies that begin with '@google'? That should be the best of both worlds.


but assistant is supposed to be reading all the messages in the conversation, in order to provide relevant replies.

why not just use one of the many other apps that does provide end-to-end encryption, if it's something you want? Some feature sets are simply not compatible. If people keep insisting on end-to-end, google will implement it and then scan all your replies on either end and send them to their servers after the end instead of intercepting them, so they can tick off the E2E box. It's better for everybody's privacy to simply accept that some apps aren't private than trying to shoehorn privacy into apps that are antithetical to it.


The assistant can reside on your phone, either integrated in the app or communicating with the app. You will have end-to-end encryption.

It is just a definition of what "end" means. The phone? The app? The screen? Your eyes? With real end-to-end encryption nobody should be able to read over your shoulder and it should be delivered directly to your retina.

Note that such an assistant can itself be connected to the internet again.

Personally I'm not against a setup like this. I have encrypted communication through corporate servers, but would like to open up my end to this or other parties.

Edit: I didn't mean you didn't say this already, just wanted to explore the point you already made.


> assistant is supposed to be reading all the messages in the conversation, in order to provide relevant replies.

They could totally have made assistant run locally, but it's easier for them to run it on a server:

- It saves battery to run big computations on something that does not run on a battery (their servers);

- They can use techniques that require more processing power;

- They can patch whenever and whatever they want, since it's all on-premises for them; and

- And as a bonus, you know what people are interested in and talking about.

Most privacy minded people probably wouldn't install it anyway, it being closed source and by Google, so the few that you send away by this is a small number. And it adds network dependency and latency, but it's a messaging app - you need network connectivity anyway.

So I can totally see why they do it. I can also tell I'm never going to install this Google-run assistant and why I'm going to tell everyone to stay away.


Oh, I have no interest in using the app because I don't trust Google. I just wanted to make a point about how they could include end-to-end encryption while still having their assistant provide similar functionality to their examples; looking up sushi making videos, finding restaurants, and providing directions. It's obvious why they don't though, and it's the reason I'll be skipping this app.


Extending functionality with third party sandboxed apps, without any @something hoopla to call a pseudo-intelligent assistant, is much more secure and even more functional in my opinion. (i.e. iMessage).


I'm back from that paranoia period, my conclusions:

- In real life you have no privacy, but still you don't think about it (white pages, community hall inscriptions, driving license, medical history, ...), apart of white pages try to unsubscribe from any of them and see what happens. Internet made it just easier to track you.

- your safety is based on 2 things your habits and the peers that know you and are willing to lend a hand (family, neighbors, friends ...)

- what makes me feel secure about Google tools, is his business model, if they have a breach and expose people's data, they simply bankrupt, so their business relays heavily in security. (as soon as you enable 2 time factor, it becomes incredible difficult to hack you)

- what I don't like of them, they are in EEUU soil and I'm European, so I don't know if I could eventually get into trouble (like is happening in Facebook, they simply don't listen to European cases about cyberbulling, something I didn't read yet from Google, maybe because they are not so popular, maybe because they are truly Not Evil).

- so yes, I'm a product, and it also unlocks me to easily backup and access my family photos, that I can share via chromecast, or get my mails free from non nice spam and eventually find nice new products and know that I can click without exposing myself too much.

- I do have kids, and what comforts me, I can delegate to Google the block of certain images/sites thanks to their advance AI, still is not perfect so by the time they start, I'll also keep an eye. It is different to explain something bad that he just accidentally found, that place them out of his way until he has the age to understand it.

- and don't get started with the zero days exploits, the wrong architecture of some open source apps, and even the abandonware you have out there for free.

At the end, you need to trade something because one person alone can't get everything, and trust between peers is essential. And money made that trust easy, don't trust people, trust that they want the money :)


In real life you have no privacy Please remove all locks from your doors and give me your address so I can watch you and whole family 24/7. Privacy starts at home. It exists.

so yes, I'm a product, and it also unlocks me to easily backup and access my family photos, that I can share via chromecast, or get my mails free from non nice spam and eventually find nice new products and know that I can click without exposing myself too much. With all their services google gets to know most of your thoughts. You don't care. It's okay, I don't blame you. But please do not tell others "there is no privacy" just because you threw yours away for some services that make your life a bit more comfortable.

maybe because they are truly Not Evil

'You have to fight for your privacy or you will lose it' - Eric Schmidt. We (meaning mostly you) lost it a long time ago already. They sometimes show their evil face - you just don't remember/know/care.

delegate to Google the block of certain images/sites thanks to their advance AI This is kinda 1984 7.0 - just wait for them enabling it for everyone. Page ranks can/could decide elections already - do you really want them having so much power over everyone? Just because their search results are a bit better (read: personalised) than duckduckgo/etc. ? I sometimes really understand the need for russian/chinese firewalls. Even Canada (reminder: member of the 5 eyes) refuses to send their country-internal internet traffic through the USA even it would be cheaper and faster at the same time. It's forbidden by law.

At the end, you need to trade something because one person alone can't get everything, and trust between peers is essential. And money made that trust easy, don't trust people, trust that they want the money :) In my eyes, you trade away far more than they give you.


Well, one of my habits is to keep those locks and avoid giving the address unless is really necessary. Certainly you can eventually find where I live and pay a visit, but I can ask you politely to leave or call the cops on you if your intentions are hostile, otherwise we can go to a neutral place, have a nice beer and chat about the topic. I see you mix privacy with security, please don't ;-)

Your second point is quite vast to reply here, but one example: think one second of a daughter that she wants to find her favorite princess in the internet without filter you find quite some porn actress with those names, and because are popular ... paaaam first place. Now how I explain to an infant what those girls are doing, wouldn't be easier to wait until she gets the maturity and I can explain better?

The last point, is my opinion nothing more. Is always a trade, it depends how much you will trade.


Wrong, in real life random conversations are not recorded for an unspecified time.

The databases you mention have serious judicial requirements (in EU) and no free access by a company. Leaks of course happen, but they are treated seriously and are news items.

If Google had a breach, they'd do the same as everyone: cover it up or PR it down and fix it. They won't go bankrupt over even a string of break-ins.

There is less reason to trust them as they are an American company. In fact NSA had free reign over their data at some time and they didn't know about it.

While I would trust them much more than a random startup, trusting their database handling is different. Local, non collated data is often safest. Plus you're not a big target as a single person most of the time.


Well, real live conversations differ from digital ones. Granted that now we can talk about that topic without being in the same room, but depending the topic you won't word your opinion in certain channels, you self censored yourself depending where you are, that's why more than privacy or security what is needed is knowledge about the channel.

I might got wrong the reasons why Google is secure, but I found it convincing


But you were the one who argued "In real life you have no privacy,".


> what makes me feel secure about Google tools, is his business model, if they have a breach and expose people's data, they simply bankrupt, so their business relays heavily in security.

I wouldn't disagree with a statement that Google pays a lot of attention to security, but I doubt it would go bankrupt if there were a breach. There are many big companies that have suffered data breaches but haven't gone bankrupt yet. They just move on with some impact and/or some compensation to their customers, like identity theft protection. <insert any "free+you're the product" quotes here>


The Google Assistant integration is arguably the killer feature of the app. End-to-end encryption would delete it, thus it is not the default.


But, they could have it encrypted except when you explicitly message the assistant. They can also get the full text of the conversation on-device and do the machine learning on it. After all, Apple is doing it for photos, so text should be easier.


I wouldn't know, but from what one can hear from prominent Apple pundits and podcasters, Apple is not doing great at all in this regard, to put it mildly, compared to Google (and other data vacuumers). Examples: Google Photos is running circles around Photos, and Alexa around Siri. People who love and live Apple admit Apple is pathetic in this space. I doubt it's because Apple is incompetent. These problems require huge amounts of data and processing power. You can't do that locally on a mobile device (or even a PC class computer).


Alexa is basically an audio command line. You have to say things specifically. Plus, Alexa is pretty restrictive in that it only needs to handle English (and American English at that). It also has a limited set of things it can do since it's only audio.

With Siri you can actually mix languages. So you can ask in French about an English film title. I don't know how good Alexa is about these kinds of things. Considering that it's only for the US, I can't know.

I don't know if Google Photos is running circles around Photos. I know a new version just came out with macOS Sierra. I just read an article today over on Six Colours that praised its search capabilities. I don't use Google Photos or Apple's. I haven't had a camera in years and only got my first cell phone this year (I was given an iPhone 5).

I completely rule Alexa out from these kinds of discussions until Amazon bothers to sell it elsewhere. It's been a consistent issue with Amazon. It took several years before we got the Kindle in Canada, we were promised Amazon's MP3 store, but we're still waiting. Our Amazon Prime only covers shipping, not any of the books or video.

Siri does what I need it to do on my phone, but I don't really ask for much. I mainly use it for timers and creating appointments. Those have all worked perfectly, even when I'm standing right next to my kitchen fan or the speakers of my stereo.


Hm, interesting. Well, as I said, I don't know personally (I have neither an Apple device nor Alexa), but that was my impression from what people who love Apple and also have Alexa and Google Photos say.

As for Google Photos, it makes mistakes, false positives mostly (as a funny example, for my photos so far it consistently thinks cats are dogs, although it also recognizes the same cats correctly) and sometimes it's too “eager” (“cars” will produce results where cars should be but are not actually in the photo). Sometimes it makes bizarrely trivial mistakes considering how smart it is generally: it categorized photos of human cadavers and anatomy specimens I made at the local university institute of anatomy as “Christmas”, I guess because they were made on Christmas day. But it will correctly find true positives. It also correctly visually recognizes notable places globally (that is, without geotags) and various things, concepts etc. even if they're a completely marginal subject in a photo. One thing that impressed me was a cat video it edited out of multiple clips with almost perfect music some 5-10 minutes after I uploaded the first items and started using it.


People are pretty happy with Alexa, but I've heard it's pretty strict in how you say things. The 3rd party extensions require you to ask things with specific phrases which makes things a lot easier to handle, but it's harder for the user.

The post about Apple's Photos I found linked on Six Colours, but it's on Macworld [1]. In it, he searches for a zebra and it gave his few photos that he took of zebras at the zoo. So, that worked well, but the search for dogs made the same mistake as you state Google Photos made (cats mistaken for dogs). So, I think that Apple's Photos is probably somewhat close to Google Photos, but maybe not quite as good. It's not exactly Google running circles around it.

[1] http://www.macworld.com/article/3122966/macs/6-photos-featur...


I think context-switching in terms of privacy in the middle of a conversation is more risky than doing so between different conversations (ideally with different visuals) or especially between applications. For me, having to remember that certain comments within conversations are not private (especially when said comments are looping in something that's designed to provide context to previous comments) is more problematic than having to remember that certain conversations are not private.


Messages are also stored on Google for "processing" : http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/21/12994362/allo-privacy-mess...


For the same reason Facebook Messenger is not. Integration with bots and third party apps.


This was what popped out to me immediately in the bit where they write about TLS. I wonder whether this user driven approach is because of pressure from governments on encrypted chats or something else


Totally agree. I've already dropped GMAIL and Google Search. Thinking about pulling the plug on FB as well.

Tired of feeling like a product.


[flagged]


Please stop making unsubstantive comments like this.


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