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How did Google Talk change from a dream to a nightmare? (tnhh.net)
803 points by calcifer 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 376 comments



Google Talk was only ok when they had a jabber service. It wasn't much better than the other options besides that it tied delayed messaging (email) to instant messaging (jabber) through the same contact info.

Then they killed off the jabber client to force users further into their software ecosystem. Then Hangouts came along and has to some degree replaced Talk with further ties into that ecosystem.

Then they removed browser support for anything but Chrome in Hangouts, initially promising to re-extend support, yet today the docs have changed to just say you must install Chrome.

The most recent eco-system tie-in that this article doesn't mention is Google Hangouts Meet. The corporate conference room version of Hangouts that has a different interface, custom Google hardware, and less memorable links (/xcf-fges-sce vs. /organization/meeting-name).

Pixel has similar limitations when it comes to screen mirroring, only a Chromecast will do for the Pixel! Yet other android phones freely connect to Chromecast/Roku/Firestick/etc all because of a hidden menu setting that Google has disabled and set to 0 by default. You must root your phone to get around it. Great flagship right?

All this points to a company that's so fucking worried that their tech is going to be outpaced by the little guy that they have to resort to handcuffing users to their wares. I've almost completely switched to Slack in the mean time.


Even if you didn't use Jabber, the #1 reason I recommended Google Talk was that it was very, very lightweight at a time when MSN Messenger and friends were adding stickers and other teenager/young-adult friendly* features.

Today, ironically your choices for relatively straightforward messaging on the PC/Mac are: iMessage (Mac only), Skype for Business (the consumer client is too distracting for words), Whatsapp Web, or go with a "heavyweight" website/app like Slack (which is painful if all you want is IM and none of Slack's extra features).

I have to wonder what the product managers were thinking.

==

* this is not used pejoratively, I recognize people use IM tools in different contexts


There are others of course. You can go Telegram or Signal as a great cross platform chat. Not geared directly towards business, but still a great alternative.

Chat apps are the posterchild of what happens when open standards (irc, jabber, xmpp,...) get replaced with walled gardens.

On my phone I run: Telegram, Messenger, Viber, whatsapp, hangouts, signal, slack and SMS.

I should have installed skype as well, but its the worst chat app ever that kills your battery instantly. There are others as well but enough is enough.

How did we get here? I regularly need to think where should I message someone or where is a specific chat group....

Imagine you had to do this for every email service provider.


> Chat apps are the posterchild of what happens when open standards (irc, jabber, xmpp,...) get replaced with walled gardens.

To me it feels like the open standards never really kept up with the times, which in a way paved the way to walled gardens by the giants (and, in case of Slack, not so giants) to fill the gap which the open standards refused to fill.

I mean, sure IRC is awesome, text-only, channels, but emojis are limited to ASCII, inline GIFs are non-existent, and file-sharing (and/or storage) is rather clunky from what I remember from the old times.

And then we have XMPP which doesn't support things like video or voice calling (or at least it didn't last time I checked) and it's not very surprising that companies just capitalize on that and make their own platforms.

Don't take me wrong though... it creeps me out how the company where I work trusts Slack with reams and reams of confidential documents, but I guess it's convenient to an extent which no other platform is.


> And then we have XMPP which doesn't support things like video or voice calling

The Jingle extension is about a decade old and it's what Google based its support on. They even played ball for a while and released a good quality open libjingle, then decided that fighting spam from the other open XMPP networks is not worth their time and killed the whole openness concept - despite being an orders of magnitude simpler problem than email spam.

I think now the only escape from the walled gardens is regulatory pressure forcing interconnect of the larger players (Facebook, Google, Yahoo etc.) at least at text chat level.


XMPP is a bit complex, and suffers from some problems derived from too much flexibility. The mandatory part of the protocol is too small. This could be fixed by creating a meta XEP that lists all XEPs needed by modern clients.

However, it's a very capable protocol. Just see how nice conversations.im is. It doesn't even use GCM, and both latency and energy usage are fantastic.


Such a meta XEP exists already: https://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0387.html#im

If you use a client that conforms to the Advanced Client requirements of the IM and Mobile Compliance Suites (with a similarly up-to-par server), you will have a very good experience.


The problem is that selection is still limited if you factor in OMEMO support (end-to-end encryption):

https://omemo.top/


Recommendations for good clients for desktop systems? Maybe my google-fu is particularly weak today, but I couldn't find a clear statements which clients outside conversations.im fullfill those (obviously only the IM suite, since mobile wouldn't apply)


https://gajim.org/ tends to be best for desktop (binaries exist for most desktop OSes).

For macOS, you may want to try Adium or Psi. Or you can use https://movim.eu/ which, though a web client, has fairly good feature support as well.


I second Gajim especially 1.0.0 version that looks good. There is also https://dino.im but that's still in alpha.


thanks you two, will give Gajim a try!


Remember to install some essential plug-ins (OMEMO, HTTP Upload, URL image preview, etc.) for the best experience :)


> I think now the only escape from the walled gardens is regulatory pressure forcing interconnect of the larger players

Sounds good on paper, sure, but ultimately it will end up being a predictable bureaucratic mess, causing more harm than good:

a) The mandatory 'open' standard that gets produced will end up being designed by committees of management teams from 6-7 major companies, each with their own list of feature requests and no central 'vision'.

b) A lack of a cohesive strategy and (critically) a lack of real incentives by the members to partake will result in endless delays, slow moving technological progress, layers of old cruft that never gets removed, and toxic political infighting causing confusion among vendors.

c) The standard ends up being so complex and involved that it isolates other small/medium sized players (or large foreign players) from joining in, eliminating the 'openness' the original regulation envisioned and crippling competition.

d) Ultimately reduces the ability for developers to get paid via monetization and grow via capital investments in the US, as non-regulated open-source projects (or foreign private apps) gain a major advantage of not having to be forced to use the standard. Cannibalizing the market the big players spent so much time/money building.

It's not just about good intentions and spotting a tough problem, it's about whether they can realistically and effectively achieve the end goals...

TLDR: open-source and the global nature of technology, lack of incentives, design by committee, regulatory agencies staffed by the very same companies it's regulating, etc, etc will result in the crippling of innovation and harm the quality of chat apps in the US.


I don't expect US to move a finger on the issue - all major players are american. However, something like USB charging was imposed by the EU with great success, ending a massive source of e-waste and proprietary cruft manufacturers imposed onto consumers. For EU, the economic motivations to force american companies open to European competition would be very tempting and the consumer benefits significant.

The takeaway from the USB success is not to design a new protocol by committee, rather pick a mature open standard - for textual chats there are several mature ones.


You mean like what happened to the web ? I'm a bit tired that every time someone suggests a new regulation/standard on HN, someone feel smandated to explain why regulations are bad and why neo liberalism is awesome.

Could we assume that we all understand the downside of regulations ? but that we still suggest some when the market fall into a bad optimum (bad for the consumer). If you don't agree that the market is stuck in a bad place, fine you can argue that.


cornholio brings up a really good point. The fact that Whatsapp and other messaging apps have significant more European marketshare and growth rates than in other parts of the world could make an EU regulation's effect felt around the world, much like the USB one.


And this is what happened back in the day. AOL was forced to add interoperability with competitors. But our government today is unwilling to step in front of corporations on behalf of the people.


HN readers don't all have the same government. I assume you mean the US one. The EU has in some cases proved to be willing to confront corporations and/or to defend some consumers right. Not always or in the most efficient way, but here's hoping that it will continue and improve on that path.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Corp_v_Commission


I'm well aware, and really happy about the work the EU's competition commission is doing. Unfortunately, for US-based corporations, global change is unlikely to happen until the US steps in.


What would be the advantage of adding tighter voice/video support to XMPP, vs just using links to sip: URIs? A major point of open standards is that you can use use them together with other open standards.


> Chat apps are the posterchild of what happens when open standards (irc, jabber, xmpp,...) get replaced with walled gardens

Slack is showing that the usefulness and popularity of a chat app has exactly 0% to do with whether it uses an open or closed protocol.

It's all about product design and user interface.


And the failing of the walled gardens is that you can't choose the product design and user interface you want and use it to talk to everyone.


Slack provides IRC relay, which initially was almost feature complete, but got out of date with time.

Anyway, in some time Slack will probably fade away as quickly as it appeared, further contributing to the problem grandparent noticed and you seem to misunderstand.


And the more i read about Slack the less i want to touch it.

Emoji, gifs, fuck off.


Signal and WhatsApp require a smartphone though, so not fully cross platform, and tied to their (closed) client software. Not sure if Telegram requires a smartphone too, but it does seem to require a phone number at least.


I had signed up for Telegram on a phone, so can't say whether you can sign up w/o a phone (I think it would require SMS verification).

It doesn't need you to be logged in on any phone however. You can use just the desktop app. In fact I am on some really crowded and hyperactive Telegram groups so can't even imagine keeping it on my phone. Besides not a single one of my IRL friends use Telegram. I see 3-4 names, maybe they had signed up once.


A smartphone isnt required, only a telephone number for authentification.


> A smartphone isnt required

It is for Whatsapp. Not only for sign-up, but actually all communication on the web version goes through the app running on your phone. The web "session" times out constantly, so I'd have to re-pair it with my phone all the time. If I still decided to use whatsapp.


To be really pedantic; a smartphone is not required for WhatsApp. You can activate a Google voice number with a landline, then use your Google voice number to activate WhatsApp running in BlueStacks or your emulator of choice.

Source: I did this for a few months. I'm not quite sure why...


A smartphone OS is required for whatsapp


> [A]ctually all communication on the web version goes through the app running on your phone.

How on earth does that work? Say my phone's on data, my laptop's on my home wifi with NAT. How does Whatsapp on the web reach my phone?


Your phone connects to WhatsApp's servers. So does your laptop. The bridging is likely done server-side. I assume this is done because WhatsApp is (probably) using end-to-end encryption, so everything must be ran by your phone (which is the only place where your private key is stored) in order to encrypt the messages.


It works impressively well, though -- I use it far more than I do the mobile client directly.


The problem is that you need to own that same phone number permanently. Phone numbers are tied to exactly one SIM card, which is tied to exactly one telco in one country. Too many ties.

Threema doesn't require a phone number but it's not free.


Depends on a country, in Sweden you can move your mobile number to any telco, and anyone can look up your number and your home address using something like [0]. But yes, it is still tied to a country.

- [0] https://hitta.se


Yes, what I meant to say is that the SIM card is tied to exactly one telco at any particular time. It's also tied to one device at a time.

Perhaps one of the virtual SIM card offerings would work with Signal though.

I'm juggling too many SIM cards and phones already. I don't want any new dependencies that complicate matters further.


You only need the sim card active to activate your signal with that number. After that you don't have to be connected to a cell network at all.


But I still need to keep the SIM card active or I could never switch phones (or reinstall the phone OS) without losing my Signal identity.

I cannot ever let go of the phone number I used to activate Signal. In practice, that means I need to keep paying for a phone tariff I may no longer want.


True. I was assuming most people have at least one phone number they want to keep long term (even if it's not always active with their cell). Note though that signal will also work fine with non-traditional services that provide free or much cheaper phone numbers like google voice (US), skype, or twilio.

It is true though that you do need to maintain a phone number. That is one of the trade-offs they made to allow it to actually be usable. I have not seen a better solution for encrypted communication yet.


How does the phone number tie-in make it usable? Phone numbers and SIM cards are about the most user hostile thing I can possibly think of.

What's wrong with the way Threema does it for instance, which is essentially to bind the identity to a key pair that you can back up?


Threema appears to optionally do the exact same thing. Signal eschews the flexibility to ensure more universal usability by being able to assume that anyone who uses signal can be associated with their phone number. An assumption that holds for the vast vast majority of potential users.


I don't see how making phone numbers mandatory makes Signal easier to use at all. There must be another reason for this restriction. Some say it's for spam protection.


Signal will work with Google Voice, but as far as I can tell you still need a smartphone to use it. Without that, you can't even set up an account because you need to scan an OCR code first.


No, you can change the number associated with your Telegram account.


I was talking about Signal. Sorry I didn't make that clear. The phone number is your identity. Changing it means reregistering with a different number.

[Edit] And I think it's essentially the same with WhatsApp, only they now make it a less manual process.


Ah, I should have mentioned that I was talking about Telegram in my original comment, too. Can't edit it anymore :/


In these cases you could use a https://jmp.chat/ phone number.

No smartphone is required for JMP, only an XMPP client (see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16352711 for some client options).


A smartphone isn't required for Telegram either.


Incorrect. Whatsapp refuses to open on my iPad and isn't even available in the App Store. The only reason it got on there was a glitch in Apple's app sync which must've auto-downloaded it since I have it on my iPhone.


Sorry, I was talking about Telegram. Should have made that more clear.


You do need one to set it up, right? I had to scan a QR code displayed on my desktop with my phone. (I could continue to use the desktop app while my phone was being repaired, though, which was great.)


No, you can do the complete setup with the Telegram desktop app, but you need a device which can receive SMS or a phone call.


Oh hmm, looks like I got tangled in the threads - I thought we were discussing Signal. My bad!


Ah I see ;) Yeah the QR code scanning sounded like Signal / WhatsApp, never heard of that method in a Telegram app.


Wire doesn't. It uses the same protocol as Signal, has mobile, desktop and web apps and the source is on Github.


I'm using Signal on my linux desktop right now. It appears to be a packaged webpage but it works fine and is linked to my phone and laptop.

All it require is a phone number, besides it's Snowden approved :)


You're using signal in a browser on your linux desktop. Poke me when there's any way to connect via bitlbee or libpurple, like there is for ICQ, jabber, etc.


They lose all credibility when they force you to reveal your phone number. Doesn't matter who endorses it.


They are entirely honest about their trade-offs. While those trade-offs may be deal-breakers for you, it should bolster their credibility.


I'd just like to add that one of the key things I love about the current crypto craze is the fact that it gives us something that never existed before - the capability to monetize protocols. I know that most ICOs will fail, but through this process we might get something that solves this shitty situation with chat applications.


Perhaps try Skype lite? It has almost zero bloat, and has been working flawlessly for all my needs.


"Introducing Skype Lite Built for India - Chat and share with friends."

it appears to exist only for Android phones.

It's nothing but a joke that you'd have to switch to a "lite" version that is built explicitly for India [because of bad infrastructure] just to make it work in a country with much better infrastructure.

It's like buying a low-end car built for Indian market, because your regular car doesn't fit on the narrow roads in the US, the fuel consumption is too high, it leaks oil constantly and there is no service because nobody cares.


This is a worthless analogy, because some software is paired down and is "built for india" it sucks?

A paired down debloated skype sounds like a godsend to me.


...that's not what they were saying at all. The insults were being heaped on the 'normal' skype.

And skype lite is definitely lacking in configuration, like the ability to make emoticons less annoying.

(I've also switched to skype lite for the remaining two chats I'm in that use skype, now that the slightly-older android version stopped connecting and the newest interface is amazingly painful and laggy.)


It that like the Facebook Lite app that's geofenced to emerging countries? How bloated an app has to be to make a company with the size of M$ to create an alternative client?


I (relatively) happily use the Facebook Lite app in Ireland where I got it from Play Store. I'm not sure we're emerging from anything.


There're thousands of companies in Russia using Telegram as main communication tool.


> I have to wonder what the product managers were thinking.

That billions of people were using WeChat and WhatsApp, and they wanted a piece of that? I'm guessing that's the motivation.

As for the enterprise use case, I'm not really sure why nobody cares. Every company I've worked for has had their own internal system for IM-like functionality, some better than others. Microsoft has one included with Outlook whose name escapes me. At Google we used Hangouts, and despite everyone complaining about it, it mostly worked well enough. You typed a message in it and at some high percentage probability, the other person got it. It was fine.

My complaint has always been intrinsic to the medium, it lets people bug you Right Not for very low cost. "Hi, I see you're currently triple-booked with meetings, but I'm bored and I want you to chat with me and I'm much too lazy to think about my problem long enough to type a one-paragraph email and then wait for you to reply when you have free time." No.

For personal stuff, my group of friends uses Discord these days. It doesn't alleviate any complaints that you might have about other services, though. It is IRC-like and has voice/video chat. It has a native app, but it's whatever that framework is that calls bundling 1 kilobyte of HTML with three hundred gigabytes of a Chrome fork a "native app".

I also think you'd get better customer service from your local DMV than Discord:

https://plus.google.com/+JonathanRockway/posts/NswjT5nuyBW


>Microsoft has one included with Outlook whose name escapes me.

Mircrosoft's current stab at this is called Teams. I think it actually has potential: it's pretty much a clone of Slack, except that MS is willing to declare it compliant with, e.g., HIPAA.


Teams is a nightmare. Buggy, slow UI (I suspect that they use their browser internally), annoying. They started to worsen Skype too, but it is stil heaven in comparison. I suspect that they make bad UX on purpose. No way to release such a bad IM client by accident.


Teams is a cross between Slack and Facebook. It has channels, but also a threaded-messages structure that is just painful. Everybody in the company I work for wants to like it, but they struggle. Slack would be so much better, but then we’d lose Sharepoint and AD integration and we’d have Yet Another Silo We Have To Pay For.


I found it horrible, clients are Electron monsters (but still bo Linux version..) that they shove in your face whenever you try to use the web version.

So far I can stick with Lync/Skype for Business at my day job, which is bad too but.. slimmer, and does the job. Most of the time.


I'm positive that they run the whole damn thing in a VM and electron together :). Its the very epitome of slow.


> My complaint has always been intrinsic to the medium, it lets people bug you Right Not for very low cost. "Hi, I see you're currently triple-booked with meetings, but I'm bored and I want you to chat with me and I'm much too lazy to think about my problem long enough to type a one-paragraph email and then wait for you to reply when you have free time." No.

Still easier to ignore on a chat than if it entered the inbox or if they call you in the middle of a meeting?


I'm working on a lightweight native client for all major messengers:

https://eul.im

It's only 90 KB (!)

Right now there's an old barely usable alpha out, but a new release is coming up next week.


Not native, not 90KB. The first thing it does is downloading an embedded web browser. 90KB the installer. Not native either. libpurple is native.


v0.26 used to do that. Not v0.27. And yes, v0.27 is a 90KB native app. It will be released on Feb 14.


Pretty impressive. Any chance of tying it to IRSSI or making an IRC gateway like bitlbee? I connect to almost all those services through bitlbee already and it works pretty well. Add Naver Line support as well and I'm sold..


IRC is supported, so you can use bitlbee with eul.

Line messenger is not supported, but eul is modular, and everyone will be able to add support of custom messengers in the future as long as they have an open API (which Line seems to have).


Sounds impressive. Unfortunate timing that the new version is not out yet, but if it needs final touches then it does ;)

Did you consider open-sourcing it? More people would probably be willing to give it a try and support you on patreon if it was.


Sounds too good to be true! I'll check that.


Looks promising, keep working on it!


Wow!


Oh man, Slack really is a beast isn't it? I do like the multiple network nature of it (even though everything is saved to Slack's servers) but I find it hard to believe it does so little for it's footprint.

They too though made a Google-like transition and went from an open protocol (IRC/XMPP) to a closed/custom API. At least here, the server admin can enable those protocols if they want and the API seems to offer enough features that someone could probably integrate Slack into another IRC-like client.


You may explore Mattermost [1] if hosting on your own servers is a requirement. It is very easy to deploy and I found it very satisfactory, albeit testing with a relatively small team. I imagine scaling up would work. It ties in nicely with GitLab, which is another neat product for those who must not or wish not outsource information.

[1] https://about.mattermost.com/


Matrix [1], mentioned elsewhere in these comments, looks interesting too and the Riot [2] app is similarly styled to Slack.

[1] https://matrix.org/

[2] https://riot.im/app/#/room/#matrix:matrix.org


Matrix is basically open source Slack. It fixes a lot of the problems that IRC had, enabling continuous presence, central authentication, easy file transfer, bot integrations, and more. I really hope it catches on more.

Disclaimer: I help run a small Matrix network.


Yeah, the GitLab omnibus package comes with MatterMost bundled. It's a really nice solution for self-hosted chat.


> They too though made a Google-like transition and went from an open protocol (IRC/XMPP) to a closed/custom API. At least here, the server admin can enable those protocols if they want and the API seems to offer enough features that someone could probably integrate Slack into another IRC-like client.

As for the XMPP gateway it's just barely usable. From my personal experience it even tended to drop messages from time to time. It seems Slack added it just to claim XMPP compatibility. Just look at where is Slack placed in this ranking https://conversations.im/compliance/


Apparently they were built to mimic IRC but don't actually use it under the hood. But like you mentioned, they DO have some integration with IRC.


WhatsApp web (or the desktop) is really frustrating at times (though that's not completely WhatsApp's fault). Half the time I want to use it, it is not connected and I have to unlock my phone and open the app and wait for some time when the WhatsApp is connected again and the desktop app is connected too. Because WhatsApp web/desktop uses the phone app as its server.


I have the same issue with the web app (using an iPhone). What I figured out is, that you don't need to unlock the screen to make the web app reconnect. All you need to do is switch on the phone (without unlocking), so just give the home button a little tap and 2-3s later the web app is reconnected. Not a great solution, but well...


You are right. That sometimes works. But what I've noticed, maybe it's some issue with my set up - not sure, that often the WhatsApp desktop/web app doesn't connect for 1-2 minutes even after I have unlocked (or woken) my phone - so I just click on WhatsApp app on phone anyway and let it reconnect. Android and iOS both are pretty strict on background tasks these days. I hope battery tech catches up with the speed at which apps' resource appetite is growing.


Rest assured, Googlers mostly saw the same thing, and asked the same question "what are product managers thinking?".


They were probably thinking "How many features do I need to claim responsibility for in order to get that next salary / stock option boost?"

By default feature creep tends to win out over less visible improvements: supporting the latter requires active effort from management.


Oh, I was mostly thinking about bystanding Googlers not working on hangouts.

Your description is reasonable for people working on a project. (But even inside hangouts there was dissent. I don't know too much about the specifics, and probably wouldn't be allowed to tell, if I did..)


Discord, is great, works well with groups up to 40,000 and can work as a simple IM messenger, though you still have everything from the group message features as in Slack.


Try to go back and delete old conversations.... Discord really falls down there.


They have decent search at least. Lots of filters you can customize. It feels a little janky to use though.


> Skype for Business

Which has a horrible UX.

Personally, I use trillian to connect to facebook, jabber and others. But FB is always working hard to make that integration as bad as possible.


the relevant XKCD : https://xkcd.com/1810/


I really want Jabber to succeed, but it looks like all of the social providers don't want this and want to keep your communication on their servers.

Also, I really don't understand the appeal of pushing 100s of these chat apps out. I.e. Slack, Discord, allo, whats app, etc. They're not compatable with each other. You have to have a 100 different clients installed. Many which their desktop version requires 2 cpus and 128gb of ram to run each of them.


XMPP is the prime example of too little too late. XMPP missed both the shift to mobile and the shift to more engaging and complex messaging.

There is a nice overview in "The State of Mobile XMPP in 2016"[1] where you can see how far behind XMPP is compared to nearly everything else. By 2016 nearly everyone could work over mobile networks, offline messaging, push notifications, syncing between multiple devices, file uploads, end-to-end encryption etc. XMPP had a plethora of experimental XEPs with unknown support across clients and servers. And not much has changed in the past year.

So let's say you have the only client in existence that supports all these XEPs, Conversations for Android [2]. What can you do with it? Oh, you'd have to find a server that supports all your features and talk to people on the same client. And that's about it. For everybody else you're stuck with plain text messages.

It will only get worse for XMPP. AliChat and WeChat has long been the way to pay for anything in China, with over a trillion dollars flowing through their systems annually. Apple, Facebook, Google, Telegram are busy adding payment capabilities to their platforms. It will be years before a relevant XEP is drafted, and another few years before maybe one client and maybe one server will start supporting it.

[1] https://gultsch.de/xmpp_2016.html [2] https://conversations.im


Yeah and email doesn't have hardly of those features either. It's basically just text or perhaps HTML. Sending files is super inefficient and awkward. Encryption is hardly supported on clients.

None of that changes the fact that email is a useful and reliable way to send a text message to someone. In the same way XMPP is a useful and reliable way to send a text message to someone. If all you have is a lowest common denominator there is no point in dismissing it for something that doesn't exist.


> Yeah and email doesn't have hardly of those features either

That's why:

- there have been countless attempts to improve email (anything from threading, to automatic contact info to inline images to file previews, to adding interactivity to emails, to... to...)

- the younger generation prefers anything but email


Slack has the saving grace of optionally supporting an XMPP gateway, for those still committed to that dream. For now.

(I sincerely hope this comment isn't too prescient.)


They don’t do federation. And it doesn’t work very well.


Indeed, Federation was only a part of their Enterprise offering. :rimshot: It is only Slack-to-Slack, so it is not interoperable in that way. Shared channels are a thing now too, and danged if I can keep up with all the new bells and whistles.

Slack is very much an organizational groupware product, with chat done well. Not the utopia federated XMPP promises, but frankly, XML just needs to die. (Which, not coincidentally, is part of what attracted me to work on the telehash specification.)


And indeed, an IRC gateway.


When they started pushing Duo and whatever the other piece of the associated current Google chat/conference... duopoly, is. Supposedly with some move away from and/or deprecation of Hangouts, not to mention the explicit language and dates WRT killing Talk.

Well, fuck me. I can't be bothered to keep up with their changing product lineup, naming, marketing, whatever TF this is.

I just use non-Google stuff, now, for chat/video.

FB Messenger may be busy selling my soul, but at least it's still "Messenger" and actually fucking works. Which is why pretty much everyone has it installed and knows at least basically how to use it.

If I could just get my associates and friends to start using Signal or the like... (Of course, Signal could improve their UI a bit. NOT more fucking emojis, but instead making it very clear and easy to opt out of making it the default texting app (on Android). That is, not a big bar to opt in, with a little X within that bar to opt out. Tired of explaning that each time, to "normal" people, before they get back to me complaining that their texting doesn't look/work the same, any more.

P.S. As I recall now, that other piece is Allo.

If I even understand things correctly. I couldn't bring myself to read up on this thoroughly; I kept feeling the desire to throttle somebody.

P.P.S. And I remember when, a few years ago, they REALLY wanted everybody to move to Hangouts. Including integrating their SMS activity. Only, this had significant bugs, including aspects of data loss and the irreversibility of changing to their set up. That they seemed to have little real momentum in fixing -- or even communicating clearly upon.

I guess I should actually read the OP. But I'm not sure my blood pressure can take it, now.


Facebook Messenger Web is becoming unusable. Back in 2015 it was great, but slowly, they made it so that the website lags in all browsers if more than 100 messages are on screen, and the scrolling is now wonky.


Ah. I haven't used it on desktop in a couple of years. And even then, I wasn't actually "signing in" to it. It still worked just fine, via Facebook's page(s), so why bother, and this also seemed to avoid their announcing your online status.

On mobile, if you don't know how else to reach out to someone, Messenger's your best chance. Closest thing to a modern-day AIM that I've seen, in terms of ubiquity.


Duo is a mobile only video/voice chat app that uses a experimental transport protocol.

Allo is a text chat app with lots of options for stickers and end-to-end encryption disabled by default.

I don't have a strong need for either of these apps.


Was so excited when they finally added a video call option that wasn't a conceptual travesty so that we could finally have a cross-platform facetime alternative, unfortunately video always cut out and audio was inaudible, and still, despite being phone number based, won't let me call a number if I haven't added them as a contact. Oh well, back to, "let me go grab my iPad so we can facetime."

I tried to like it, I really did.


Well, my Motorola G5+, purchased in August and on 7.0, came with an icon for Duo prominently displayed. Hangouts not installed by default. (Nor Allo, I now see.)

So, Hangouts is not facing some declared or expected EOL, at this point?


It's already marked as "classic" in the help section for Meet.

> If you use hangouts.google.com for video calls, or need help on chat, visit the classic Hangouts Help Center.


I can confirm. New Android phones ship with Duo and no Hangouts.


The reason they "killed off the jabber client to force users further into their software ecosystem" is because all the other messaging products had decided to move away from an open standard (XMPP/jabber) to proprietary protocols, so there wasn't much point in restricting Google's own ability to innovate around their chat product by keeping it tied to XMPP. We can argue whether that was a good idea or not, but it wasn't purely Google being a bad citizen.


Sure there were other and earlier offenders, but that doesn't mean Google had to follow suit. They could have contributed something open and federated - an upgrade to XMPP. Branding would have been easy and the darling of the web would have held that image a little longer.

But they didn't, the closing and interconnecting of Google's product ecosystem was the beginning of a trend which is now seen across most of their offerings:

The Pixel has silly restrictions as I mentioned. Android apps, Drive, Docs and the office suite apps have gone stale since they came out of beta and lack the commitment to open source that Google once championed.

Even their new HTML replacement, AMP, is heavily tied to Google resources, requiring entirely different implementations of the same experiences between the HTML and AMP versions further handcuffing the buyer to their ecosystem and the buyer's customers to Chrome.


Sadly that's also my thoughts about Google. When previously they were open and leading the innovation now they are just blindly copying competition in hope of somehow making it big. Twitter? Google Buzz... Didn't work. Facebook? Google+... Didn't work. Whatsapp? Allo... Didn't work.


Google+... Didn't work.

Actually, I just went over there and Google+ looks like it's working just fine. Many parts of it are thriving and there seems to be a lot of activity in communities. Google+ is niche. Just because it doesn't have the ubiquitous adoption level of Facebook doesn't mean it failed.

I really hate this attitude in our circles that unless an app devours everything else and becomes a unicorn, it's a total failure.


> I really hate this attitude in our circles

Maybe I wasn't clear. My point is that it is Google's attitude right now. If a product is not "a unicorn" they instead rush to something else (Talk->Hangouts->Allo) or kill it (Reader, Wave). Being niche product in Google is just dangerous for that product.


I use hangouts exclusively on Safari. It's actually frequently unusable with Chrome (nobody can hear me).


Meet though is exclusively Chrome. They have now cut Safari out of the picture as well... https://support.google.com/meet/answer/7317473


Wow, not even Firefox support? Hasn't Google heard of something called the open web?


Firefox was first to go. I'm sure they were ecstatic to have an excuse to end support when Firefox changed how their add-ons work.


Didn't they change it so it's much more similar to how Chrome extensions work? Shouldn't it in fact be easier now to have an extension work in both Chrome and Firefox? The Mozilla wiki page on WebExtensions even says "Much of the specifics of the new API are similar to the Blink extension API."


The Chrome extension used should work just fine with Firefox, but Google would rather try and force vendor lock-in. At this point I just use Jitsi, it works every time without any browser extensions to do a quick video conference or screen share.


When it launched in 2013, Hangouts used an NPAPI plugin that worked in most browsers. In 2014, Google ported Hangouts to WebRTC for Chrome only because it relied on non-standard WebRTC features only implemented in Chrome. Note that Firefox did support WebRTC at this time and Mozilla in fact developed its own WebRTC video chat service in 2014 called "Hello" that worked in Firefox and Chrome.

In 2015, Mozilla announced that it would drop support for NPAPI plugins in 2017, giving websites using NPAPI plugins ~18 months to switch to a non-plugin solution. When the NPAPI deadline came, Google announced the Hangouts would stop working in Firefox, they were "actively working to develop a solution" for Firefox, and until then Hangouts users should use another browser:

https://gsuiteupdates.googleblog.com/2017/02/google-hangouts...

It's 2018 and Google is still working to support WebRTC in Firefox, but they're definitely working on it. In fact, WebRTC Hangouts does mostly work in Firefox now, but only for users with a G Suites enterprise account whose admin has manually enabled Hangouts. I don't know why.

"Hangouts Meet" is a different product using WebRTC whose support for Firefox is still in development.

I've been documenting this saga on this Mozilla wiki as part of the NPAPI deprecation and Win64 Firefox rollout:

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/Win64


Thanks for the info. I totally forgot Hangouts was still using an NPAPI plugin, and I didn't realize Firefox dropped support for those too. Doesn't explain why Safari wouldn't be supported though, as Safari still supports NPAPI plugins.


I haven't tested Safari, but Hangouts' system requirements say it supports Safari and IE using the NPAPI plugin:

https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/2944865?visit_id=...


They have, but they don't seem to be in favour of it.


Since October 30 2016, Hangouts is unusable on me on Safari.

I always use the pop-up feature in order to get individual chat windows that are real operating system windows, rather that the javascript windows in Gmail. Since that date, it doesn't work in Safari. It works for a few minutes, then the windows close themselves and disappear.

The only solution was to use Chrome... which worked until very recently. Now I get the same problem with Chrome too, albeit the timeout is much longer, perhaps an hour or so or sometimes longer.

Everything is fucked.

By the way, this is Apple bug 29018740. It might help if someone makes another bug report and references this bug, though I doubt it because when the latest Safari version was released (with the bug still present, of course), I mentioned this to Apple and they responded:

> Thank you for contacting us. If this is still an issue for you on current releases, please file a new bug report.

Thanks Apple.

By the way, this is just for text messaging. For voice/video Hangouts became unusable earlier than that. The video quality is approximately 120p and the audio is 1kbps or less, and I can't talk because noise cancellation doesn't work and I hear myself back with a 2 second delay and 80dB gain. Don't even get me started on CPU utilization yet...


Jabber still kind of works. It's what I use at least; all my Hangouts conversations come through on my Mac through the Messages app.


I am a Firefox user and when I "need" to use hangout I just fire up Vivaldi.


Hangouts runs fine in the most recent version of Firefox.


Slack and Zoom, for my teams.


Instant messaging is an example of something that used to work, and now doesn't. It used to be that everyone was basically on AIM, which functioned as an open enough network. Status information worked pretty well - you could fairly easily tell if someone was online, and so people could respond.

And now - we have dozens of clients, such that there's no way of knowing which subset your contacts use. With the prevalence of phones, it's hard to tell if someone is available or not, so you just send messages in the ether, and get surprised if anyone responds.

And the worst part is, there's no obvious fix, since any new system will just add to the fragmentation.


I don't think that's accurate. There were a bunch of silos in the past, too. People used to be on AIM, MSN Messenger, ICQ, Jabber and IRC, and there were others. That's the reason chat apps like Adium and Trillian supporter multiple accounts. I had friends on all those networks, and nobody was on all of them. It was a mess back then, just as it is now, except now we have even more choices.


The difference was you'd fire up Pidgin and connect to all of those accounts simultaneously, at which point it really didn't matter which individual network any given contact was on.

Now, in the smartphone era, there's nothing like that. There's a bunch of different completely siloed apps, and I can't talk to people all from one place.


Yes for over a decade I was able used Gaim/Pidgin as my one stop instant messenger. In the early days, I used it for MSN,AIM, and ICQ. And when Google Talk took off that worked too. Could even talk to my coworkers in China over the QQ network. And when I joined a company that used Skype, there was a plugin for that too. Life was good.

The consumer really has been the loser now that Apple, Google, and Facebook have walled off their messengers.


I miss those Pidgin days so much... Even Facebook was rocking XMPP for a while. Things were so simple back then.


I remember setting up Trillian (later Pidgin) and setting up a bunch of accounts just in case I had a use for them - not sure I ever used AIM/ICQ, but I _could_.

Now it's just more trouble than it's worth.


Franz is the modern day equivalent of Trillian/Pidgin.


Not really. That's just yet another instance of web browser, this time with chat-specific tab switching and - as I learned recently - a need to create yet another cloud account...

In Pidgin, you actually had it all in one place, with the UX defined by Pidgin.

That's another bad thing about current fragmentation. You have no way to unify the UX.


That's by design of course. The client side software is where the interfacing with the user happens, and if your business model is 'first become huge and indispensable, than figure out a way to monetize', you need absolute control over what the user sees and how they interact with your service.


Let's not beat around the bush - if you "need absolute control over what the user sees" so that you can "figure out a way to monetize", then you have already decided that you are monetizing with ads. That is the only possible reason to maintain iron control over the user's eyeballs.

This business practice of pushing the product unsustainably in order to drive out the competition was rightly condemned when WalMart did it. I don't see a similar public backlash in the tech sphere these days.


I was a big fan of Meebo, personally. Since it was a web app, you could sign in once on any computer and all of your chat clients were there.

...Guess who bought it and killed it? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meebo


For a while, imo was meebo's successor, but they saw the writing on the wall for third party interoperability after Skype cut them off for the nth time and decided to focus on their own walled garden chat and Twitter service instead :(


the answer is... Google

> In June 2012, Google acquired Meebo to merge the company's staff with the Google+ developers team.


Yes, it was really good. It pretty much Just Worked(tm), had a good UI for a web app, and was relatively lightweight (I remember using it even at crappy airport computers).


It used libpurple to connect to the chat networks -- same as Pidgin :)


Yeah I really liked Meebo too


You might be forgetting that AIM would change their settings randomly for a few years to prevent unofficial clients from working.


Yeah but I doubt most Windows users use Pidgin. What happened back then ICQ, MSN and AIM dominated at different time and geographically, even though they co-existed since the 90s. Now, not so much.


I used Trillian back then on Windows.


Same. Messengers used to just work, now we have a bunch of walked off shit with no intercommunication. "Are you on Slack / Discord / Skype / Telegram?" question is getting pretty annoying.


I used Pidgin on Windows for years. Ah, the good old days...


This is the sad part about today. We lost user centricity with the dawn of mobile apps.

The web (http) and internet were conduits for information and communication. Now the pipe is a dumb channel each companies territory.

I miss pidgin where you had AIM, ICQ, IRC, Gtalk and whatever others. I also miss how companies are pushing their app instead of improving their mobile presence on the web.


It also had a tiny footprint.


I'm amused that IRC is the only one of those you listed that is still alive and doing well.


It's alive, but I don't know about 'doing well'. It survives among some special interest communities, but the usage is tiny compared to any of the major platforms now. You won't find your uncle on it.


To be fair, I wouldn't have found him on IRC in 1998 either. IRC has really always been a relatively niche thing and I think it's fair to say it's doing well if you define that as remaining popular within the niches it's always been associated with. Though I think this is starting to change with the popularity of Discord.


Yes Discord is starting to really starting to dominate.

More and more often these days you'll find at the bottom of a community info page a discord rather than an IRC channel. Even big pirating communities are making the switch.


How does that work? I'm a regular in the C# Discord community and one of the rules we enforce and have to enforce regularly is no illegal or shifty activity (pirating, cracking, hacking, aimbots, cheating, etc.) because the discord admins don't take kindly to that sort of thing.


Well there's obviously far too much conversation for the admins to actually snoop in on what everybody is saying so unless anybody in the group reports it then it would just fly under the radar.


If you've been to an open source conference that lasts a week the pattern is always the same: the bulk of messaging ends up on IRC.

It doesn't start out that way. First you have a lot of people pushing their favourite barrows. Then they set up IRC gateways. Then they bleed users to IRC. I've been to a few conferences that keep actual statistics of messages published, and it's always the same.

But it's well hidden. No one gives up pushing their barrow, so if you just listen to the conference gossip you would never know it's happening.


>You won't find your uncle on it.

Bug or feature?


Openness and standards matter in the end.


I sure hope so!


Afaik ICQ is still somewhat popular in eastern Europe.


ICQ’s find a friend feature got me into contact with someone in south africa (I’m from europe), who I ended up visiting for a month.

It’s the sort of random encounter / friendship that you could have in the pre-2005 internet and that’s much harder today.


I don't actually remember why ICQ died, it was the best then there was MSN Messenger for some reason...?


I think the main reason is because Windows XP included a basic MSN Messenger client enabled by default in 2001.

Indeed, ICQ was vastly superior. In fact, in my opinion, many of its features (such as the discovery features) have not been equalled since them. It was quite traumatic to me when it was replaced with MSN Messenger.


AOL bought them. Slow burn.


ICQ is now owned by the Russian company behind Mail.RU. AOL sold it for $187.5 million, less than half what they paid for it:

https://techcrunch.com/2010/04/28/aol-sells-instant-messagin...


in my circle of friends it was because aim let you pick a username instead of a number


I remember that they bloated up their client so much with menu bars, icons and later ads that it was not snappy anymore and required a lot of memory. So people where looking for alternatives.


> It used to be that everyone was basically on AIM,

Given that the A in AIM stands for America, I'd call that a pretty damn narrow definition of "everyone".


Yeah, pretty much no one here (Germany) used AIM, it was 80-90% ICQ and some using MSN.


As a french I spent countless hours chatting with my classmates on AIM when I was in junior high.


Pedantic nitpicking:

The A in AIM stands for AOL. The A in AOL stands for America.


The A in AOL used to stand for America, but now AOL doesn't stand for anything, much like the K in KFC used to stand for Kentucky.


> much like the K in KFC used to stand for Kentucky.

It always did (they just weren't going to pay Kentucky for their fraudulent trademark) and still does - https://www.snopes.com/lost/kfc.asp

> In November 2006, KFC and the State of Kentucky finally reached an undisclosed settlement over the former’s use of the trademarked word “Kentucky,” and the restaurant chain announced it would be resuming its former name of “Kentucky Fried Chicken.”


From the "More information about this page" link at the bottom of that Snopes page:

> You’ve just had an encounter with False Authority Syndrome.

> Everything in this section is a spoof.... As for Mississippi’s doing away with teaching fractions and decimals in its school systems because kids find them too hard to master, that’s no more true than Kentucky’s imposing a licensing fee on uses of its name


Well, damn. I (correctly) feel a right old fool now. Thanks!

(Sadly I can no longer edit the original otherwise I would add a Mea Culpa.)


It’s really hard to build a billion dollar platform business from just staying out of the way, so apps layer on the complexity.

Plus there’s always the VC around the corner hoping to fund the next Whatsapp, so we get a proliferation of me too-apps.


Very US-centric view. In the UK everyone used MSN (well, people that actually used IM did) and now literally everyone uses WhatsApp. Even my technologically illiterate mum uses WhatsApp.


Did presence ever really work though? I’ve been online since the late 90s and I don’t remember ever considering it reliable except perhaps for people on IRC who I knew had a transient internet connection (namely dialup).

I’ve never really paid much attention to or trusted presence status, with the exception of statuses that are manually set (e.g. do not disturb in Slack and similar).

It’s kind of funny, considering that presence is probably the most challenging technical requirement for large-scale messaging platforms. I will say that my two most-used messaging platforms, iMessage and Slack, both usually do a great job of delivering push notifications to only the ideal device (my phone, tablet, or computer). My intuition is that this logic is roughly the same as presence.


AIM handled presence quite well- custom "away" messages, easily editable "profiles" which were like a .plan file to include a note about where you were logged in, idle timers, icon to tell if an IM was forwarded to a cell phone. Finally while it lacked anything like Slack has to store your messages centrally and persistently, AIM would notify a user when you logged on to more than one location and allow remote logoff of your other sessions to ensure subsequent messages only went to your current session.

I'm glad you've been blessed with whatever Apple Magic lets iMessage work across devices for you but between my iPad iPhone and MacBook all I can say is I follow up important messages with a phone call because it's one of the more unreliable and indecipherable systems I've never been able to figure out.


The best is when as an android user that has an iPad, texts sent to you from an iPhone will go to the iPad that gets opened maybe once a week and not to your phone.

No going half-way into that ecosystem.


It’s interesting that your iMessage experience is much worse than mine. I’ve seen some weird behavior, but generally only on very spotty connections.

Facebook Messenger definitely does the best job. I believe it shows the delivery status of every single message.


>It used to be that everyone was basically on AIM

That was never true. AIM was very popular in some places and had no foothold in others. In my area it was first ICQ and later MSN. Nobody, except one buddy from Seattle, used AIM.


IIRC, AIM required you to have AOL as your ISP. Even where applicable (i.e. in USA), this was still inconvenient until they dropped this requirement sometime in 2000. Other, ISP-independent messengers existed before, but the pastoral idyll of "everyone at the same chat network" never existed in reality.


> Instant messaging is an example of something that used to work, and now doesn't.

It's a miracle that the web works the way it does. So perhaps we need a consortium (like W3C) for messaging too?


Ugh. No. You need vendors having common interest banding together to standardize on some parts for everyone's profit (what WHATWG essentially was).

Otherwise, no matter what the committee does, it's doomed to fail because there is no incentive to support them.

And given that no one wants interop with their systems (except for some users, but who cares about them?), an interest group is unlikely to appear.


In the business space, there was a consortium of companies/contributors that got together to try to solve enterprise messaging (not IM/person-to-person messaging, but messaging computers/message buses/queues/etc.)

That consortium created AMQP, which is a fucking abomination of a protocol. You can read through the spec and see the design-by-committee chimeric parts.

I'm not convinced that it's a good approach, basically.


So don't make new systems.. help dismantle old ones?


I also haven't seen any substantial innovation in chat for like 30 years. The main value prop hasn't changed since pre-internet days.


It is remarkable how thoroughly Google has munged their communications platforms.

Especially as an iPhone user, I am constantly befuddled trying to get a semblance of a well organized contact list between my google apps, never mind a correspondence between the iPhone native contact list.

I have a google voice number, and generally I assume that messages get to me one way or another.

The most recent baffled was finally understanding that there is no way to manage contacts from within the iOS Hangouts app. I’m actually not sure how that contact list is generated.


It may be a byproduct of how Google incentivizes their engineers.

As I've heard from chatting with engineers and PMs at Google, the biggest rewards go to those that take a product to its first major release and the initial marketing fanfare.

After hitting 1.0 you typically see teams break up, the star engineers moving on to the next big thing. Once that happens the pace of the products development slows significantly, leading to ignored user feedback and a struggle make improvements.

The product mothballs for some years until - in the case of something like Google Talk - momentum is generated around replacing it with the next 1.0 product.

And so on...


Writing really good software takes years of user feedback, and a team of knowledgeable engineers digesting that feedback to write new versions. A company can afford to do that when its users are its customers. When they are its product instead, you get a steady stream of half-baked and quickly-abandoned software, often installed via forced update.


Most of the industry has settled on the CADT model instead. The GP of this post suggests Google has done a particularly good job formalizing it these days.

https://www.jwz.org/doc/cadt.html


Did you try that link when HN is the referrer? ;)


In theory the goal is "launch and iterate", but yeah, the incentives add up to "launch and leave".


It isn't exactly clear how it's managed from the desktop either. Over the years they've really screwed the whole thing up. It's no longer clear whether someone is online, offline, online but hidden, or just lost in a contact list change reorganization. it also isn't clear whether someone is available to chat, or if the IM I send will be inconveniently received on their mobile phone, something I try to avoid doing when possible.


yeah, yahoo did all this same stuff 20 years ago.


It’s not just Google. Have you tried Skype for Business lately? Meetings are incomprehensible.

Teams is supposed to fix everything... but my O365 tenant doesn’t have it yet.


What the hell is going on with groupware? IBM, MS, Google, are they all just befuddled by whatever web fad is current to forget making their stuff actually useful? I feel like there has been nothing but regression since 10 years, ever since Skype brought free and stable group calls.


I suspect that nobody has figured out how to make money on it and that is what is 'going on'. It does make one ponder how to do this stuff in a sustainable way.


Seems like Slack figured out how to make a lot of money out of interoperable groupware. If they'd been slower at it, I'd still be saying they're an acquisition target for those companies.

edit: "All" they did was come along at the right time and make the interoperability easy. The prerequisites to have done it at all? Smartphones, WebRTC, and ElasticSearch.


Calling Slack "interoperable" is a bit much to me, though I admit it's better than everyone else in the "new crowd".

I wonder if we need a new word for "interoperability in the time of SaaS" - the kind of where SaaSes talk to other SaaSes via locked down APIs, under absolute control of the vendor.


I mean, you can call the APIs locked down if you insist, but SaaS is SaaS. Would you count S3 as a locked down API, for example? OpenStack's Swift (and plenty of other products) will emulate it. I chose the term "interoperable" specifically instead of "API compatible" but I agree this gets very confusing when talking about SaaS.

In order to do what Slack is doing, they have to be somewhat committed to open standards. They are just doing webhooks, like GitHub does. We tried specifying microformats, and we tried specifying webhooks, but the "loose RPC" model... Seems to work way better than XMPP server interoperability ever has.

I recommend this recent nested Twitter ("new crowd") thread amongst Stewart Butterfield and many other early web folk, about whether Slack is a web app: https://twitter.com/stewart/status/961704310613491712


I don’t think so. Cisco maybe, but Microsoft is printing money with this tech.

Capturing email, files and love communication drives subscription revenue for E5 SKUs of 365, plus most companies will need Azure AD to meet their security and compliance requirements.

We ran the numbers at work... taking the blue pill and going all on Microsoft will 3x our lifetime value to them vs a standard E3 shop.


It’s funny you said that.

One of my colleagues pointed out that the IM client from Exchange 2003 era (I think it was Live Communications Server) and LiveMeeting were a better collaboration platform than SfB, even given the severe limitations on bandwidth and cpu.


It's really not a high bar is it? Frickin MSN Messenger and Adium was a better platform than what we have now. While never having used it I suspect the best was probably blackberry's platform in its heyday, even though AFAIK complicated to integrate into a business, but at least then it would work solidly.


Teams is an afterthought from Microsoft in its continuing lineage of Collaboration Applications.

We recently switched to it for a world wide support team and it's a step down.

- No direct quoting, only threaded replies in group chats.

- No linking to Threads, even though you can personally bookmark it

- No message indications except in 1 on 1 chats ad hoc chats, so if you're in a large group thread, you have no idea if someone is paying attention or not

- Poor UI decisions (the menu which appears over messages for "options/bookmark/like" will obscure messages if the same user sent two messages in a row; because it appears over the right-most part and the second of two messages from the same user doesn't include the user info, the menu will hide whatever's at the end of the message).

- Scrolling back in a message thread (group or personal) is pointless, as messages take so long to load, and it seems to load sequentially. (i.e., you can't just scroll to approximately where you think the message is; if you scroll for 10 minutes, it will still just load the most recent messages before continuing)

- Search has no proper way of search only one conversation, it's all or nothing.

- The mobile app is incredibly slow to sync regardless of whether it's on data or wireless.

I could go on for awhile on this. I honestly wonder if anyone at Microsoft even tried to use Teams before they released it, since everything about it feels like it was just tossed in there and the devs weren't allowed to look at what other collaborative chat apps did to make them good. Even their "me too" implementation of things like giphy integration or inserting photos in to the chat is very poor (dragging a photo from desktop will insert it into the thread, but dragging it from the web will upload it to sharepoint, though both take very long to upload). Accessing Sharepoint content takes a long time because Microsoft's login to the Office 365 space takes a long time. All text is actually rich text, but for some reason they included a pseudo markdown syntax which just toggles the rich text functions (bold, italics, etc) whether you mean to or not. You can't just escape these characters either since it's not that well thought out of a function.

When we briefly had Skype For Business, I thought that Microsoft couldn't do any worse, but they really did their homework for Teams and made a real horrible product that works for basically no one.


> Have you tried Skype for Business lately?

On Linux it does not even show the screen shared by others (Windows) users. In the old Skype (not for Business) client Linux users could even share. For corporations progress means removing working functionality.


That's been the same situation with webex and Cisco. (Spark is even worse)


Teams is a joke. It’s an alpha level product at best. At worst it’s black hole on the user voice forums for features that were in IRC and a constant memory leak. The vscode team needs to teach the teams team how to properly write an electron app.


If I move the teams window from one monitor the my other slightly different sized one the close and maximize buttons don't work until the window gets minimized and then re-shown. smh. (win8)


Skype for Business isn't really Skype, it's the new name for Lync, which has always been garbage.


> The most recent baffled was finally understanding that there is no way to manage contacts from within the iOS Hangouts app. I’m actually not sure how that contact list is generated.

You also cannot manage contacts in any app on android besides the contacts app, or, probably better for you: http://contacts.google.com


The rationale for Google's behaviour has always been that it will help them achieve user lock-in. But disregarding both the technical and ethical merits of this strategy... is it actually working for them? Six years ago I spent very significant proportion of my time using Talk and Reader. In their absence, I have shifted to using FB Messenger (/WhatsApp/Telegram/etc.), with Facebook and Hacker News kinda substituting for Reader. I still use Gmail and Google Apps, but my daily time inside the Google ecosystem has probably decreased by about 2/3rds.

If I'm their target audience, then this strategy is an unqualified failure. Obviously I'm not their target audience -- I'm an outlier in almost every respect -- but I've yet to see an analysis which suggested that Google has actually succeeded in capturing more eyeballs or generating more revenue via this strategy. In fact I haven't really seen any business analysis of this at all, other than blaming the business-types for making these decisions. Which is probably correct, but I'd still be very curious to see whether those decisions paid off, purely on their own terms.


I can relate to this. Google's services became less and less useful over time. I even replaced Hangouts with self-hosted XMPP server while previously I thought custom would mean a lot of trouble. After a while test driving it I migrated entire family (Conversations.im on Android works great and we've got encrypted E2E chats).

Now I'm thinking about hosting my own calendars (kind of easy) and email (scary).


I've been finding Google Calendar incredibly buggy as of late as well as other services. It's like they don't care anymore.


Google can't organize the world's data if the world won't trust Google with the data in the first place.


I transferred my American number to Google Voice before I left the country and have been able to hold onto that number for over a decade.

Unfortunately, everything about Google Voice/Hangouts/Talk/Whatever-it-is now sucks. Trying to find someone is damn near impossible. I totally can attest to that. The removal of federated and regular XMPP was the wrong direction.

I'm in the wonderfully weird situation of not having a Gmail account either. I deleted it and ran my own mail server back in 2012. I use DavDroid/Radicle for contacts, so in the web interface, any contacts after 2012 that are SMS are phone number only. I have to use my phone to see the names.

I don't think it's even possible to find someone via gmail address anymore. Occasionally I'd find someone on Google Plus .. and have no freakin idea how the hell to send them a personal message (either in G+ or Hangouts).

The whole Hangouts/G+/Gmail ecosystem is awful. If you don't have a gmail account, it's beyond unusable. I pretty much just use Hangouts for legacy chats.

AIM/Yahoo/MSN all worked .. and now they're all gone (I think Yahoo is still there, but web only). Facebook was unreliable as shit and god awful until around 2013/2014. It took them that long to create someone their competitors had done better a decade ago.


Voice/Hangouts has felt like an abandoned application for many years, even though it's potentially one of the best products Google has ever made. They really seem to stop at v1 for almost all of their products and have not the slightest idea how to monetize them.


> Voice/Hangouts has felt like an abandoned application for many years, even though it's potentially one of the best products Google has ever made.

That's probably WHY Google Voice was one of the best products Google put out.


it was originally a company called grandcentral and eventually acquired by google. they basically left it as it for YEARS


Exactly.

There's a reason users/clients have come to fear the Google acquisition of a product they've come to depend on and in which they've vested hopes of continued improvements and solutions.

At least Google hasn't outright put a bullet in Voice, yet.


Have any recommendations for commercially similar solutions, that also support a proper SIP interface?

I'm preparing for that day, when GVoice dies.


https://jmp.chat/ is a good alternative. Text and picture messaging over XMPP, and voice over real SIP (with voicemail transcribed to text).

There are lots of great XMPP clients, such as Conversations on Android, and Gajim or Adium on desktop. Or use https://movim.eu/ if you like a web client. iOS has a few options as well, including Tigase Messenger and IM+.


I use Google voice # + OBI220 device for home phone service, and hangouts on mobile/tablets. The home phone service using obi device in nice bc it's portable, the hangouts integration is fragmented, frustrating and unreliable


My understanding is that Google Voice has some partial cover in that it is the backbone of Google Fi.


And just try keeping a distinct Google Voice set up, if/when you sign up for Fi.

Unless you're very careful, they mush together your Voice and Fi accounts, irreversibly.

When Fi was in its early days, a lot of Fi users found this out the hard way and were pissed about it. People who'd been using Voice, maintaining a separate Voice #, and who wanted to keep it that way. Who DIDN'T want that number suddenly tied to a/their cell phone.

(Hint: Create a separate browser profile (not just a Google account, but an actual separate profile under its own sub-directory). Sign up for a different Gmail/Google account. Use one account for Google Voice, and the other for Google Fi. Don't accidentally cross-pollinate.)


So basically an anti-competition move from search? (Don't ask your friends, they're unreachable anyway. Use search instead!) Suitably dystopian, I like it.


Unfortunately, they recently remembered they have it and have begun removing features and options.


This sounds like a cynical joke, but for those people who don't use Voice, it's sadly what's really happening.

I want to get off Google products for many reasons, but the main reason is becoming that I can't trust them to listen to users.


Rereading it I can see how it might sound like a joke... it's not. Truly very sad, they let you go back to using the old interface but sometimes you get jolted back into the new one and there's no way to access some of the old options... maybe if you have a really old browser user-agent you can trick it into only giving you the old interface?


For people that use Google Voice, that's often the hardest Google service to leave. You can get similar features with https://jmp.chat/ - it supports text and picture messaging (and voicemail transcription) and you can port in your Google Voice number to make the transition seamless for your contacts.


Thanks. Am I correct in assuming this is your project?

How long have you been working on it? What's the exit strategy look like? How big is the team currently?

I noticed that your blog hasn't updated in over two years, while I recognize that making blog posts is time-consuming, when it comes to software that just gives the feeling that the author has abandoned the project. Maybe consider linking to an area you still frequent?


https://jmp.chat/ is a project I started, yes. There are about a dozen other people who work on it to varying extents (you can get a sense of this from the commit logs, some of which are linked below).

Based on https://gitlab.com/ossguy/sgx-catapult/commits/master and https://gitlab.com/ossguy/jmp-fwdcalls/commits/master it looks like I've been working on JMP's codebase for a little over 13 months now. Prior to that I worked on JMP's precursor (see https://github.com/ossguy/sopranica - also called "Phase 0"), which started about 4 years ago, and was more part-time.

Since I and a lot of my friends depend on JMP for their everyday communication, I'm not really interested in "exiting". If the project were to be sold, it would have to be to someone who cared about keeping the software free and open source, and who wanted to keep it on a federated network. I suspect going public would be a bad idea, because most of the public (i.e. investors) doesn't(/don't) care about JMP's values.

We publish an update on JMP and related projects every 1-2 months. We recently started using Mailman so you can find the past couple updates at https://soprani.ca/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/jmp-news and signup if you like. For day-to-day updates, you can join our group chat at https://anonymous.cheogram.com/discuss@conference.soprani.ca (more options for joining are at https://jmp.chat/#support , including directly from your XMPP client). That's where the majority of project-related communication happens.


But how do I know they'll be around in a year or let me save my number?


As with all carriers that offer US (and Canadian) numbers, they are required by law to let you port your number away. So you can always bring your number elsewhere if they decide to close up shop.

And if that happens, likely someone will setup another instance and keep the same service running. That's another great advantage of JMP over Google Voice: all the code is free and open source, so anyone is free to run their own instance if they like. In fact, you could run your own instance right from the start and then be in complete control of whether JMP keeps working for you.


Instant messaging used to be so simple. You connected via adium or pidgin, and it just worked. You could hook it up to gtalk and msn. Even ICQ and AIM. Then msn wouldn't play nice any more, then gtalk.

Now we've had a dozen renames and replacements, XMPP is long gone, and what's left is an almost unusable mess. Add to that the dozens of people I once had connected on Adium (from memory most on Google talk) are now strewn across loads of different chat apps.

These days I'm texting more again! This really isn't the future I expected.


That's been my experience as well. Facebook/Hangouts/WhatsApp/Allo/whatever might have amazing features but I truly don't care. SMS/iMessage (since it's seamlessly integrated) has completely taken over with my group of friends because of one defining feature - everyone has it. If you have a phone number, you can receive a text from me.

A while back one member of our group got tired of the 8 person running group thread we have and suggested moving to something "better". The group unanimously shot it down because we don't want to download new apps, create new accounts, then inevitably have to migrate to the brand new flashy service in 3 months.

For context, we're all late 20s/early 30s.

Edit: Actually, I believe SMS is still superior because it works even without a data connection. We spend enough time camping, skiing, attending huge sporting events, etc. any of those other services would be a significant downgrade.


I suppose you live in a country where the telcos offer free SMS. In Spain they cost money, so almost no one uses SMS for personal messaging. All the SMSs I get are from companies.


In Germany there's a bunch of different options when signing up with a provider, eg I have one where I pay 2€ extra per month for 100 SMS which is plenty for me. For 4€ I'd get like 300 or so. Its the same pricing for free minutes for domestic calls (normal landline or mobile, no service numbers obviously).


I think it's similar here, but 300 SMS/month (i.e., 10/day) wouldn't be even close to enough for the average Spanish user. Whatsapp usage is huge here. Many people do all their routine personal communication using it, and then they have a group for the family, a group for coworkers, a group for friends, a school parents group where they all complain about their kids' homework, etc. Of course, they also send photos and videos (which I'm not sure if are covered by SMS plans or you need that exotic thing called MMS).

And even if it were enough, a Spanish user won't pay 2 or 4 € for something that they can get for free. In fact when Whatsapp had the idea of charging a symbolic amount and suspended access to some accounts due to not paying, people started switching to Telegram en masse (Telegram even went down due to that), then they gave back access and abandoned the idea of charging.


Certainly has a big plus - SMS will often get through when even voice can't. Data on the other hand! That's without getting into how badly some apps handle intermittent or no signal.


Have you tried Telegram? It's the best.


See, there's the devil, in the details as usual: "Have you [and everybody you wanted to talk to] tried the X [, all having tried it at the same time]? It's the best [when it works, unless it's subtly and invisibly broken, void where prohibited]."


Not forgetting the rapidly escalating permutations. They say Telegram, work wants Wire, someone else Whatsapp, someone else says Messenger and on and on.

Either install 27 apps or decide enough is enough. I've had just about enough until one can aggregate like Adium used to.


is this sarcasm? (honestly it's unclear to me)


I enjoy telegram, but if I need to talk to more than the two people I know that use it... well..

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