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The latest on Messages, Allo, Duo and Hangouts (blog.google)
283 points by fastest963 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 385 comments

This is just an utter mess. Google keeps ignoring and trying to kill Hangouts (which should still be called GChat, that was an incredibly stupid rebrand), and building new products instead of investing in the one which actually has some potential.

Google could have been a major player in messaging if they had just stuck with GChat/Google talk from the early Gmail days and kept investing in it. It was great on the early versions of Android! The failure here is entirely self imposed and a major indictment of their senior management team.

I was there when that happened. The whole rebranding/transition of GTalk/GChat was the result of some political muscle flex by Social and its army of PMs, then after Social lost its favorite child status Allo was born as a result, championed by another army of PMs, and I wonder if Duo had a similar story of birth.

>Google could have been a major player in messaging if they had just stuck with GChat/Google talk from the early Gmail days and kept investing in it.

That's just not what Google was back then. It was all about PMs/designers wanting to jump onto the shinest and newest projects and lots of politics were involved to win support/attention/resources from the top management.

This is exactly what I suspected Google to be like but I always assumed I was just stereotyping. A bunch of competing teams and internal politics frustrating the ability to have coherence and "synergy".

I once worked at a startup that made the mistake of hiring an entire remote product team from silicon valley. All they did in the year before they mass resigned was inject drama and politics into everything and force some really bad design decisions that will quite possibly kill the company in a year or so. Got me thinking what it must be like at scale.

> This is exactly what I suspected Google to be like but I always assumed I was just stereotyping. A bunch of competing teams and internal politics frustrating the ability to have coherence and "synergy".

Interesting, because it seems (from the outside) like that was what Microsoft was like internally for years. Blogs like mini-ms seemed to confirm some of that, but of course that was "just one side" of the story.

That was Microsoft before its transition over the past few years. Essentially every single product it’s own vertical with nothing shared, this went right down to having separate switches and server racks managed by separate people.

It’s quite an amazing transformation Microsoft has gone through, never complete of course, but still impressive.

This happens in every company that employs the Vitality Curve method for employee performance metrics. It ensures only highly visible projects are incentivized, regardless of their actual value added. You are promoted under such systems by merely paying lip service to your manager's assignments, and instead spending your time creating some widget, and exaggerating its usefulness non-stop until someone in upper management buys into your self-promotional hype. "I don't care if the world doesn't need this, it's going on my OKR's dammit!" Your product is green-lighted, and you get a promo. Then your product is pulled some years later futher pissing off your users. Try to operate in an environment like this without affecting the morale of your colleagues though. Go ahead, I'll watch. After dealing with such systems for over a decade I've learned I don't actually enjoy playing Game of Thrones every quarter with my co-workers.

This is a great behind the scenes view.

What is Social? Is that at major product vertical within Google? "Possibly" is a potential good answer here :).

G+. The slogan at the time was "one unified Google" -- to I think rightfully correct a mistake that Google had a very diverse set of products many of which did not properly interact.

As I understand it, GChat wasn't seen seen as able to integrate well into G+. So Hangouts was built on the G+/social infrastructure.

To that team's credit they did somewhat seamlessly move users over from GChat to Hangouts without many hiccups.

Of course, after the G+ effort disintegrated... we got Allo & Duo

There must be a name for a concept that seems like it would be obviously true, but actually isn't.

I don't think it's a bad thing that google ha a diverse set of products that didn't work together. I don't need my google calc/excel to integrate with youtube, and I don't need google play music to integrate with gmail.

Google should look at these things as individual companies, which it seems like is something that they finally somewhat figured out with the alphabet rebrand. Just let gmail be a successful company on its own, and let youtube be a successful company on its own. From my perspective as a user, things actually get worse when all of these things try to play together.

> I don't need my google calc/excel to integrate with youtube, and I don't need google play music to integrate with gmail. Google should look at these things as individual companies, which it seems like is something that they finally somewhat figured out with the alphabet rebrand.

That makes sense to an extent. Unfortunately, Google has created a number of products or "companies" with overlapping features that are in direct competition with one another. Just in the communication space, they have: Hangouts, Gmail, Inbox, Allo, Duo, Messages, and Google Voice.

These actively compete with one another and make the sum of all the products worse than just one good product. If I want to send an SMS message, I can currently use Hangouts, Messages, or Google Voice. I don't want to decide which to use, and I certainly don't want the one I choose to just disappear one day while I get booted over to another app.

"There must be a name for a concept that seems like it would be obviously true, but actually isn't."


Body builder strong?

Social was the department that was running Google+ and Hangout, and at one point I think Youtube fell under its control as well? Vic Gundotra was the SVP who ran it. Despite my mixed feelings toward products from Social I had a lot of respect for Vic.

Can you expand on that? I feel like many people are negative about Vic G so I’m curious about what positive points you might see.

Vic Gundotra was a turkey trying to be an eagle with this stupid twitter commentary.

haha, i like your figure of speech.

Social needed features for G+ and success in social was seen as important (everyone's bonus was tied to it). So Hangouts became a G+ headline feature despite having very little to do with social.

What is a PM? I am getting insight into how google works because this sounds like a bunch of idiotic internal wars between acronym teams instead of focusing on making actual useful products.

> focusing on making actual useful products

A 'product' is something you sell to clients.

Google's only product is advertising, and they don't need to focus on making better advertising because they are a monopoly.

Everything else Google does is just a smokescreen for investors and a creeping fear that they won't be able to exist in a post-monopoly world.

> Google's only product is advertising,

Google's main product is user attention, which they sell to advertisers in the form of advertising.

Right now, they farm this attention mostly through web search, but hone it through data they collect with other venues, such as e.g. location and other data collected from Android handsets, the vast tentacles of Google Analytics, Google DNS, G-Suite (GMail, G Docs, G Drive, ...) etc.

AFAIK, G-Suite for business is actually making money (a round-off error compared to advertising, but still, a profitable business), and the various cloud storage and compute offering are actually making money that is not a round-off error (though still dwarfed by advertising).

Also, they DO need to make better advertising (and farm better attention), because they are in many ways a "natural monopoly" - they're the monopoly because they are the best in many ways, mostly not because of network effects or anti-competitive behaviour (which they have practiced at times, especially with YouTube, but not nearly to the extent practiced by any other player of this size).

A nit: afaik Google's DNS service has committed to never associating data with other Google services. For reference, it's the last bullet point on https://developers.google.com/speed/public-dns/faq


I would take that (as anything else) with a grain of salt. They might not today, but things change and they might tomorrow (you know, they used to "not be evil" and they aren't anymore).

Furthermore, rest assured that everyone who can, which includes - but is not limited to - three letter agencies, is monitoring traffic into and

On the other hand, most of the big ISPs have been caught not just handing your DNS requests over to advertisers along with the info they have on you, but actually sending back false dns replies because of advertiser money.

And if you compare to what happens on hotels' or other such dns servers.

I'm saying, perhaps things will change at Google, but they'd have to change a whole lot before they'd be as bad as the normal alternative.

Not to nitpick a nitpick, but both and support dns-over-tls. If you are concerned about the Powers That Be, you should switch over-- and good luck doing that with your ISPs DNS.

> they're the monopoly because they are the best in many ways, mostly not because of network effects or anti-competitive behaviour

Not true. Their advertising business is absolutely built on network effects. Advertisers advertise where there is user data (anything else is a money losing proposition), and lots of user data collection only happens in services that have the money to host (and curate) a large search index, which in turn needs a healthy and growing ad business.

It's a self-serving cycle that eventually leads to one player becoming the monopoly.

(Same deal with social networks, though less pronounced.)

What you are describing is called "compounding" in Economics, but that's not a network effect. You might want to read [0]

Microsoft has the money to to host and curate a large search index, funded by their other businesses. And after more than a decade, they've gotten almost nowhere -- everyone I know who tried Bing (or DDG) goes back to Google for quality.

Whereas e.g. Facebook and WhatsApp do have a network effect - you have no use for them unless your friends use them too, so a new contender - no matter how well funded e.g. Google+ - is not useful until critical mass is achieved; and critical mass is not achieved until it is useful.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effect

Google also sells hardware (phones, Nest), Cloud services, gSuite...Ads represent 80-85% of Google revenue but that share is decreasing over time.

Google barely sells phones. They might have done with Nexus but they sell as many Pixels in a year as Apple do in 3 days. I know no-one with a Nest. They're still very much an ad company.

>Google's only product is advertising

Weird, because I pay them monthly for google play music, and for google apps, and for youtube red, and for youtube TV.

I also have several android devices, and look forward to paying them every time I get into a waymo.

Google has LOTS of products. The "you aren't the customer you're the product!" redditism is just wrong. It's something that sounds really insightful if you don't know anything about the company, or are trying to stir up drama.

Aren’t most Google services there to capture eyeballs for the advertisers to service? That’s Google Search (sponsored results), YouTube, and—in some sense—Chrome.

PM is a super heavily overloaded term that you'll run across in pretty much any company larger than small, definitely not specific to Google (disclaimer: I work at Google and don't speak for the company, but I'm brand new so my conception of the categories comes from what I've seen elsewhere). Engineers tend to raise an eyebrow at the entire job category because they're thinking of bad experiences with one particular flavor of PM (and often a particularly poor specimen at that), but that can be unfair, a lot of what they do is absolutely critical to business.

The acronym simply means either product manager, project manager, or program manager, but the responsibilities can be any/all of the following, and probably more, depending on the company:

- Full product owner, "the buck stops here" person. Many different possible titles here other than PM (usually "project manager" if that's the title), like general manager (GM), different flavors of producer, product owner (PO), VP of X, etc.

- Feature designer/owner/manager (product manager): writing specs (junior), pitching specs (mid-level), setting and selling product vision (senior), driving strategy (staff/exec, though at that level all roles start to get blurry). Decent business school grad representation here, you have to be good at strategy, negotiation, communication, and Powerpoint; having good product ideas helps a lot, too, but not if you can't sell them. A persuasive PM of this type is a force to be reckoned with and will get a lot of executive attention, which can be very good or very bad depending on whether the strategy they're into pans out or not. This is probably the type of PM the parent was talking about "armies of".

- Development director (project manager or program manager): a whip-cracker at worst or an impenetrable shitshield at best, they manage the practicalities of running a project, like project scoping, meeting and managing hard/soft deadlines, handling support, cross-team communications, processes, compliance, etc., often stepping in as an all-purpose guard against randomization so that others can focus on producing the product. Many PMs of this type ended up being the go-to folks for GDPR compliance over the past couple years, so it's not just internal process stuff that they deal with.

- Task checker: can blend into to the development director mentioned above, but at some companies this sort of PM will mainly focus on tracking tasks that are in-progress, getting estimates, watching velocity, and sending reports up the chain. Some devs find this role pointless and annoying, but it really depends on how good they are - if they're solid, they'll find a lot of ways to improve things instead of just tracking them.

- Scrum Master (project manager): Big-S Scrum is falling out of favor so it's not as fashionable to have this title anymore, but within some processes a similar role still exists as a type of project manager. In a nutshell, Scrum is a simple yet effective "People Over Process" process that consists of a bi-weekly no-laptops-allowed retrospective meeting where you get the team together to have a free-ranging discussion where everyone feels heard, so that you can all decide together whether the team should estimate engineering tasks in terms of hours or hats. You need a trained and certified Master because otherwise people new to Scrum might not know to pick hats. A more seasoned Scrum Master will also schedule a quarterly retrospective-retrospective where the team discusses a strategy for what guidelines to put in place for the next retrospective so that the team can decide on hats faster and leave more time for the less settled question about whether or not the Fibonacci sequence is the right way to count hats or if a size-based approach will make people feel better supported in their work.

- Monetization designer (product manager): mainly at game companies, PM is often a super different role, probably best described as the profitability-focused counterpart to a game designer. They focus on setting prices, managing game economies, speccing and evaluating A/B tests, inventing loot boxes, etc. Ideally PM and designer would be one and the same, and the game design would be holistic with the monetization, with a designer that has serious Excel/analytics chops and deep inspiration and sensitivity about gameplay, but that's a more rare combination than you'd think, so a lot of companies split them out.

I'm probably missing some other ways this acronym is overloaded, but I think this covers most of it.

> You need a trained and certified Master because otherwise people new to Scrum might not know to pick hats

You certainly don't need a certified scrum master. Ideally, the scrum master should be somebody who is already in the team. A scrum master who does just that is really a project manager, and having a project manager is, IMHO, antithetical to doing scrum.

According to scrum, the scrum master is not the product owner and not a member of the dev team, but rather an objective person who does just the scrum master duties, e.g. facilitating when needed, e.g. making sure people are following scrum instead of getting distracted, not stalled by roadblocks, not taking marching orders from more than one product owner, etc. In scrum, the dev team organizes its time after priorities are set. Scrum does not want a scrum master to be a project manager - if you’ve seen that they’re just mixing unnecessary stuff into scrum and scrum is getting a bad rap for that. I don’t see a scrum master as being a full-time job unless they’re working with multiple teams, so it could easily be anyone knowledgeable outside the team who will objectively play the role.

In my experience, and from what I remember from my own training, the scrum master can very well be part of the team. Having somebody external, objective, well trained, and available exactly when the team needs him looks very good... but pretty difficult to do in practice.

This seems like a great topic for a pre-trospective meeting to discuss the process of how to structure the process to figure out the process.

Could also be Product Manager.

Product Manager.

I believe PM is for Project Manager

Product manager

Project Manager

project manager

Not OP but I assume project managers

Project manager. Pretty standard role in a software team. The person who determines what the end result should look like.

From context it is a Product Manager.

Project Manager: manages day-to-day running for project e.g. fighting for the right number of devs, designers etc

Product Manager: (also product owner) determines what the product should look like.

> The person who determines what the end result should look like.

Not necessarily. In many companies 'project manager' is just the techie name of what used to be called a 'secretary'.

It can be Product Manager too. Product Manager has more of a focus on customer/marketing, whereas Project Manager oversees the technical teams implementing Product Manager's ideas.

A Product Manager doesn't need to have a technical background, but a Project Manager should.

I've experienced this politicking time and time again. Ultimately these decisions kill great products and drive customers away.

For the record, project managers aren't the problem. Google having no clue how to hire good product managers is the problem. This is why Amazon doesn't have problems like this, our PM's really are world class. But our obsession with mid-level managers is getting out of hand, so I suppose we're all headed in the same direction.

that's how it starts. first the middle managers, then good engineers leave because of said middle managers. then middle managers hire troves of contractors to justify their jobs. then contractors who knows where the bodies are buried become the new engineers. and then you have a Google.

Want to know an even more stupid rebrand?

A totally new, half-baked business product called Hangouts Chat.

There no polite way of expressing it: Hangouts Chat is a shitty product. We moved to Chat when Hipchat was closed. Because we’re using G-suite it seem sensible to go with Chat, but everyone hates it.

The UI is useless, Google try to be clever about “conversation” and tries to group them together, but now people miss most conversations that happen when they aren’t looking. Notification is broken, you can only get to many or not enough.

Chat seems to be designed by the same incompetent team of interns that did Google Groups. Using the two products feel oddly similar.

Our team was in exact same situation. Chat is still missing some features, but I definitely prefer it over HipChat already. Still a compromise in comparison to Flowdock or even Slack, but it gets the job done.

Maybe that personal preference, but the HipChat UI made more sense to me and it was MUCH faster.

Again it's personal, but I feel that Chat is a prototype. The interface is butt ugly, almost like it's something that's just slapped together to the if the backend actually works.

To be fair, in Slack I also miss important conversations when they happen in threads while I'm not looking.

Threads are a terrible feature they should never have added to Slack. Threads take one conversation and fork into multiple, which is just awful.

Unfortunately its a tricky UX problem that I haven't seen anyone master. Threads work well in Slack when you have a team culture that uses them consistently -- the channel sets the topic and threads keep individual discussions focused.But that requires a lot of effort in culture building which most people won't or can't do. And its still not a silver bullet, just an improvement. Taste's vary of course.

I like Slack's threads. I'm in a couple of Slacks which use them quite effectively.

I'm not quite sure how though, it just happened.

A small sidenote: chats are shitty concept in general. They have had a reason in a past era when voice coms are expensive and limited, they have a reason in terminals to broadcast few messages, no more.

For real communication we have letter so in digital world mails or we have phone calls so in digital world VoIP one's extended with eventually video/screen sharing and conferencing capabilities, no more.

Discord, Slack, ... are all only a mean to keep abandonware live for business purpose and, unfortunately, many companies fell in the grave. People who want productivity should rediscover classic software, modernized to actual "graphic style" but nothing more so:

- good desktop MUA (I can, unfortunately, only list notmuch-emacs, mu4e, mutt, pine) instead of limited and limiting webmails. Of course we have to add few things to the mix like having our mails in a local maildir and a good filtering/autorefile/autotagging solution (alot, IMAPFilter);

- good VoIP desk/softphones, something like old sip-communicator (now Jitsy);

- decent software to share screen as needed (actually I know only proprietary one's like bomgar, anydesk or teamviewer, xpra etc are simply too limited);

- local, well integrated, productivity suite. Mine is Emacs, not easy to convince office guys to learn it, but even ancient plain office suite can do the business with a decent DMS that enforce good taxonomy and have decent full-text search (YaCy for search, nothing for DMS in my list... They are all crap)...

I couldn't possibly disagree more. Voice comms are _hideously_ inefficient and limited compared to chats and virtually always an inferior option in a group context, in a professional context, and especially for a professional team. They always interrupt one person, and every additional person involved is a decision about how much more time and attention to take and how many more interruptions to make balanced against who to leave out of communication. They are slower for groups over around 4 people, they are more likely to produce misunderstandings, more likely to omit details. They make it harder to refer back to things, they leave less of a window for people to gather their thoughts and word things clearly. They are far more likely to be rushed through because the communication is fully synchronous. They cannot divert into simultaneous side conversations. I struggle to think of situations where I'd rather have a voice call than a text conversation.

If a potential employer told me they relied on VoIP phones over Slack/Discord I would consider that a _major_ point against them.

As someone who hires and employees remote developers, it’s a massive red flag when a new developer wants to have a voice call.


> Try the two with a chess timer

Of course voice will be faster--eight out of ten times at least one involved party's main goal is just to get off the phone.

Optimizing for time is a mistake. Optimize for disruption (I can switch back to other work while waiting for a chat reply--there's context-switching overhead there, but not nearly as much as a phone call), retention (I can refer back to what someone said in chat, rather than "hey, Jane, what was that hostname again?", waiting for an atrocious speech-to-text conversion, or manually seeking around in a call recording), and mutual investment in communication (professional or not, a synchronous call usually has at least one participant that wants to be there less than the other[s]--in chat, people can participate when they're most interested in doing so, meaning that their contributions are less half-assed).

There are situations where sync is best (trying to pitch something or persuade colleagues of something is a big one--it's just easier to reject/be reluctant without engaging critically via chat for some reason). But a lot of the time chat is more efficient.

I've found that many people I've worked with who strongly dislike chat are not practiced or comfortable writers in general, and, after some training (if such folks are willing, I've had them take documentation, presentation-building, or RFC/RFO writing tasks as practice), they tend to be much, much happier about (and better at!) textual communication.

When you time a voice chat, are you also including the time to document what was said and share it with the team?

I consider ITIL, Kanban and all other managerial erotic bureaucracy harmful. If I need to document something said by voice I have only to push a button on my deskphone and an mp3 of the conversation with reasonably good audio quality will be created and sent to my mail when I end the call, also I use to have a small portable recorder with a good mic in my pocket, while it's not legally valid it I do not tell others that I'm recording it turn out really useful in few cases.

Fortunately I'm in EU (France) so I have still a bit of choice (less and less, unfortunately) to avoid certain bureaucratic companies too much common in modern English world (and I evidence modern because when UK was a real power and USA was a really strong economy they do NOT have such modern mania or at least it was far far far less developed).

What I simply measure is how much I can do with single tasking concentrated operation vs how much I can do and how bad the resulting quality is when I multitask. The result are simple: the more I try to be quick the more error and time I waste, the more I go calm the best result I achieve.

And while I do not have real consistent data I can see result of a certain kind of work paradigm everyday in any aspect of our society.

> A small sidenote: chats are shitty concept in general. They have had a reason in a past era when voice coms are expensive and limited, they have a reason in terminals to broadcast few messages, no more.

Not at all. Voice chat is synchronous - you must stop whatever you're doing and listen or talk in real time. And people nearby will overhear.

Chat is asynchronous and private. I can chat and consult a colleague while I'm in a meeting with a client. I can keep a chat open while coding and read/respond when I'm not most concentrated. I can go offline and answer a question the next day.

Text chat isn't literally "chatting through text". It's email with a different UX, more suited for quick communication.

I still have to find something LESS productive than "chat while doing different things", perhaps even less than having an opposite (same, depending on personal orientation) sex beauty, naked, dancing winking at you...

Many have thought and still think that multitasking and quick things are productive, I see the exact opposite. And we can see it at another level in mean per capita hourly productivity: in the past (so before business model substantially merge around the world) French hourly productivity was the highest in the world, and they are still one of the less-working in term of hours and holidays. USA, Japan and Germany are the opposite, they work far more and have a far lower hourly productivity. To the over extreme try the difference between a lover vs a prostitute...

Open spaces are another TOTALLY unproductive things, born only to push more economic constructions sold as a higher price and facilitate reorganization. The letter also is one of the less productive thing we have if done constantly because any change, if positive, demand time to start pay back, doing constantly means NEVER get paid back, only suffer the change itself.

That is almost exactly what Microsoft did with Skype.

I guess Google really is turning into Microsoft!

> half-baked business product called Hangouts Chat.

So, to compete with Skype for Business?

I'm also one of those that was / is still sad about losing XMPP integration. Highly customizable alerts are borderline essential if you have a lot of threads going, but hangouts seems determined to prevent you from doing any of that.

Yes. Their explanation also didn't make much sense since Hangouts was targeted for a while to consumers. But what I got from this is basically:

Messages <-> iMessage

Duo <-> Facetime

Hangouts <-> Slack

I think they should rename the Hangouts to something completely different. That at least will increase clarity for consumers and businesses.

This mapping isn't correct. Hangouts does all of the above - video chats, voice chats, text with emojis, pictures and videos.

Hangouts is also integrated with Google Voice and GMail. So when someone calls my GV phone number, it rings on my cell phone and in any open GMail tab (but not in the GMail app). I get an SMS, it pops up as a hangouts message too.

It is a mess, but trying to kill Hangouts is insane, it's deeply integrated and it's extremely convenient to use.

>it pops up as a hangouts message too.

Unless you have google voice installed instead of hangouts. It manages to be two apps still.

This is what happens when there isn't an unified company product strategy but fiefdoms duplicating and fighting with each other.

I think there's another way look at this. Per "Zero to One" Google is a very powerful monopoly. It wants to protect that position, as well as make it less noticeable.

All these "side projects" create the illusion that Google is not a monopoly. More importantly, new Product X, whatever it is, helps to attract new top talent. Top Talent is going to want to fix old things, they want to build new.

While this might sound a bit extreme, even if it's not actually true (in tandem) both of these "incentives" are real. Google does need to mask its dominance. And it does need to attract top talent (if only to keep soneone else from acquiring it).

> More importantly, new Product X, whatever it is, helps to attract new top talent. Top Talent is going to want to fix old things, they want to build new.

Is that really true? I would personally chose to work on Facetime than Google's new messaging system, all else being equal.

Facetime is really solid and I'm sure I could learn a ton from the expertise there; as well as working on something new within that product.

In contrast, Google's messaging systems just seem like a mess. I would feel like it could be cancelled at any time, that we didn't have the best talent (because it's spread across the various systems) and honestly would be slightly embarrassed to talk about it ("yeah, I know, yet another message system from Google").

Is no one in charge of marketing or strategy in Google? Surely you can rewrite all the code underlying the product you like, forklift replace it if you want. But why endlessly rebrand existing products. Just keep the brand going. Or converge/consolidate branding even if the underlying software might be different between target markets, like Microsoft did with all its different messaging platforms over time. Now it’s Skype. And Skype for Business. (They’re very different.)

I agree with you 100% and if you analyze the comments on HN everytime Google decides to mess around with their IM, I have seen similar sentiment around Gtalk. I was a regular user of Gtalk during college days 10 years ago and was pissed when they merge/transition them into hangouts. It is a poor product management decision driven by Google's philosophy of capitalizing the next big trend in the internet industry ignoring the preferences of their users.

The text of the blog post is very confusing at best. I consistently got the feeling we have no idea how to do messaging, and we are throwing many things to see which one sticks. In other words, the blog post felt like it was a post about telling how we have no idea what we are doing using some thousand words.

Messages app is very primitive. I like hangouts way more. I can hop from text message to video chat with family with a single click. My project fi integrates nicely too, and to me this is a pretty good value prop.

Disclaimer, google employee in an unrelated product.

Same. I adore hangouts, ugly and 'outdated' as it is. With Fi/Voice, it integrates perfectly as to call or text from any internet device. And who cares about wifi calling or volte support when with hangouts, everything is over data always and more reliable. Killing it is a mistake. It's the only Google product I'd gladly pay a monthly fee to use...

> I adore hangouts, ugly and 'outdated' as it is

How is hangouts ugly or outdated? I've heard this from several people and I don't know to what y'all are referring.

I have no particular love or hate for hangouts, I'm just curious.

Just from its looks, mainly on mobile. It's got a large, dull green banner that just says 'Hangouts'. I'm no UI expert, but it just looks outdated...

try messages, looks way more outdated.

Hopping from text to video in a single click is cool...

But the #1 thing that stops me from even considering buying an Android device is "it's not iMessage".

iMessage doesn't have single click to video, but it's also automatic. No hassle at all and I can blue bubble send perfection to any other iPhone-r. It's also synced to all my devices flawlessly.

I think that's what is really missing. People don't mind opening another app to place call / facetime / hangout video. They want simple, clear phone messaging that isn't an "app"

That's basically Hangouts. I sms more from my computer than my phone but it's all synced everywhere. I'm even smsing with a co-worker from my tablet right now.

Your "That's basically Hangouts" arrangements statement is true when it comes to:

>It's also synced to all my devices flawlessly.

But as for Hangouts being flawless messaging and not just some buggy app, I have to disagree.

Often I'll type a message and hit send, it will stay in sending and never actually send. I'll need to kill the app and when I reopen, the message is gone but if I retype it and hit send, it sends immediately. This is on a Pixel 2 with Project Fi or WiFi.

Clearly that aren't doing something properly and I feel quality of the app has degraded as their efforts go elsewhere, viz. Allo, messages, etc.

Hangouts is flawless on the browser on my laptop though.

I've only ever had this happen on very very patchy internet connections. Usually when there's a captive portal that I haven't logged into (so the app doesn't know it's being blackholed).

>Often I'll type a message and hit send, it will stay in sending and never actually send. I'll need to kill the app and when I reopen, the message is gone but if I retype it and hit send, it sends immediately. This is on a Pixel 2 with Project Fi or WiFi.

I have a Pixel 2, with Project Fi, and haven't ever really had this issue.

Agreed, and it was even better before they reduced a lot of the functionality for non Fi users.

What functionality did they reduce for non-fi users?

iMessages integrates really well with os x...

os x, ios, and nothing else. That's the thing I like about gchat, it works everywhere.

Sure but I am talking about the quality of product and the vision. There is coherence. Gchat works everywhere but is not well integrated with anything.

Disclaimer: there are no ios devices in my house and I am android guy all the way. But wow does messaging suck compared to ios world

There's coherence? Try sending a message with an effect to a Mac user. (Sent with Fireworks)

"iMessage doesn't have single click to video, but it's also automatic."

I don't think i got what you are saying... What do you mean automatic?

I suspect they mean that once you've logged in with your Apple ID, which is pretty much required to use an iOS device beyond the stock apps, iMessage and FaceTime both get set up.

So, if setting up a phone for nana, you take it out of the box, set her up with an Apple ID, put it back in the box, send it to her, she takes it out of the box, and then you call or text her, all she has to do is answer the call. No futzing with downloading the right app, no having to make sure the person on the other end is using the same chat service; just doing it.

You cannot make everybody happy, i guess. If google opted in everyone to hangouts by default, people would go crazy (see chrome opting you into google accounts).

I mean, it's not like it'd be terribly hard to have an initial setup screen asking if you'd like to use Hangouts or not. I wouldn't trust Google not to make it seem mandatory, though. Or to put it in just to please Europe but in actual fact just breeze past it.

you message somebody, and they get the message. you don't have to think about what app you're using or what app they're using.

Also it's very hard to debug...

A friend on iOS think he has sent you a (SMS) text message.

You don't get it on your (non-apple) phone.

You don't get it on your (non-apple) work computer.

Three weeks later you log on to your iMac/mac-mini/whatever that you hardly ever use to find messages from whoever uses apple phones and has your email address on their contacts. It turns out that logging in to your desktop PC can link your AppleId (email address) to iMessage and start swallowing your text messages. You can only rectify this setting on an apple computer.

(Yes, I know I'm an edge case but I will never see iMessage as a good thing, walled gardens can suck).

No, you're not an edge case. iMessage does indeed not "work automatic" if you're not fully into the Apple eco system.

And if you are somewhere where SMS is not free, you might get a hefty bill.

Sounds like the Unix philosophy: "Do one thing and do it well."

More than one billion people on whatsapp disagree with you.

That's not really implied. I'm also on Whatsapp (to communicate with Android users) but I agree with every word in that comment.


Why did you let your employer effectively commandeer your personal phone number?

Don’t let a company use your personal Apple account... nothing new there.

not an imessage problem but a your employer problem. you know the spiel that chrome puts up when you open an incognito tab?

> blog post is very confusing at best

Yeah, there's clarity at the end, but there could have been a cartoon in 4 frames:

Frame 1: icons of Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Messaging

Frame 2: Hangouts splits into Meet and Chat (5 things)

Frame 3: Duo, Messaging, Meet annd Chat arranged in a 2x2 grid of (messaging, phone/video) x (consumer, business), with Allo still hanging above

Frame 4: Allo getting squeezed into Messaging.

You're onto something. This should be a chart though, and encompass the whole scope of Google's attempts at messaging over the years. Plot out all the bundling (Hangouts & G+) and unbundling (Allo's features -> Messages) like xkcd's movie narrative charts: https://xkcd.com/657/

At any given moment in time, Google's messaging attempts look silly and confusing, but imagine seeing it over time - it'd look downright insane.


Based on one of the most famous visualizations of all times - Napoleon's 1812 invasion of russia

Don't forget Talk and Voice

(Googler also, also unrelated product)

I felt like Allo was actually a really great product. Comparing it's UX and features to other messaging apps out there, I felt like it was one of the most polished (iMessage or FB Messenger being similar). From a product strategy POV, it felt like a product targeting Asia (specifically India, as it launched with Indian themed sticker packs), at least at launch, but that changed over time. Also, it's important to distinguish Allo from Hangouts from the account perspective. Allo is phone # tied, like WhatsApp/Telegram. So definitely trying to go after a different market segment. It just failed.

Duo continues to be awesome. Being a FaceTime competitor that is cross-platform is great. No account needed, just simply start a video chat from your address book (or from the App).

Hangouts is... something special. There are clearly reasons things happened the way they did. But I think it's good to see that Hangouts Chat/Meet will be open to consumers eventually.

Allo is an awful product that should never have been greenlit. It was a huge step back on Google's core mission "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessibleand useful." Not only could you not search your chat history from other devices, but you couldn't even use it from other devices at launch, and even when that was fixed, it was clunky.

Much better would have been to attach phone numbers to Hangouts, similar to how iMessage ties phone numbers to Apple IDs.

Allo was so unpolished compared to whatsapp/telegram att it was hilarious,you def drank the koolaid too much. every indian i met treated it with disdain.

I'd love to hear why you think it was unpolished. I've talked with a number of people (both Googler's and other tech people) that liked the product (at least where it was going).

My problems with it were:

* It used the "phone is the source of truth" like Whatsapp, but it didn't go with always-on encryption (so they could do Google assistant in it).

* They didn't launch with a desktop web client, which it eventually got (and I really like it).

* It didn't launch with any kind of backup/restore system, though it eventually got it (so you could move to new phones).

Things I liked:

* Encrypted chats (incognito mode) worked well and had expiring messages.

* The Overall UX/UI for the mobile app and Desktop are (in my opinion) better than all the other messaging apps out there (except maybe iMessage). (Though I don't use any FB products.)

* It was on iOS and Android, and had the same features on both.

i don't remember now and it seems impossible to find an article with my list of complaints but:

1. feature parity wasn't there. i already have whatsapp,you're asking me to move. feature parity would be minimum requirement

2. it didn't auto discover people like whatsapp does(or atleast it didn't when i tried it initially), people needed to sign up for it adding friction to an already unpleasant process of getting people to switch

3. duo wasn't in allo and allo wasn't in duo. if there had been just one app it would have had a greater value prop(at the time) of chats with video chatting. instead there was a whole 'nother app to manage. once whatsapp announced voice calls(followed by video) getting anyone to "allo/duo" was absurd

4.i remember number porting was buggy in some way, just flat out didn't work for 2 days

can't remember the rest but i remember something about the emojis bugging me(google implementation different from whatsapp) and being unable to send pdfs

it needed to compete from day one not "find it's feet" gradually. i find this to be a problem with all google products really

> Hangouts is... something special.

Would you, please, elaborate?

Hangouts integrates your Google Voice and Google Fi texts right into web pages like GMail, contacts, etc.

And this works even if your phone is off, lost, broken, or has no service. Hangouts also works on any device with an internet connection if you log in. You can text and call from your number on literally any device just by signing into hangouts. None of the multitude of other redundant Google messaging products does any of this. Even their official replacement "messages" only works if your phone is on and has service.

You don't even need a phone to call and text from a laptop through GMail from your phone number. That functionality will be lost.

I agree with you 100%. Most of the time when I'm receiving a text I'm sitting in front of my computer with a Gmail tab open. So the ability to text back directly from my computer (with a full size keyboard) is absolutely the killer feature of Hangouts integrating the Google Voice/Fi phone number.

I simply cannot imagine using anything else. Those who haven't experienced this workflow don't know what they are missing.

I do 200-400 texts weekly and this saves me easily 1 hour per week in gained efficiency (context switching, fumbling with phone fingerprint unlocking, composing text on small phone keyboard...)

> So the ability to text back directly from my computer (with a full size keyboard) is absolutely the killer feature of Hangouts integrating the Google Voice/Fi phone number.

Another Google Fi user here. To be clear (since this was a shock when I learned it this morning) - you can text from your computer with a full size keyboard with Android Messages now. It's just more WhatsApp-style where it's paired with your phone, so you need to have your phone on and working. It also isn't integrated right into Gmail. So it's not as nice but it's got the "killer feature" of texting from your computer (which, I agree, is killer) at least.

You should add that no product from anyone else has this capability, even on iPhone.

This is what bugs me. It's not an overly complicated idea, and I feel many users would actually pay for it. Why has nobody tried? When I search for alternatives, I only find business offerings, with worse functionality.

I just want to use my provider for data. Lemme call and text via the web/app, keep my number safe, and my money is yours...

I use iMessage and FaceTime across many devices that are not my iPhone. What I can't do is go to a random computer and sign in to see my messages.

imessages cannot send sms over data; only iPhone to iPhone messages. Hangouts can send a standard sms to any number from anywhere in the world using WiFi/data for free. This is a huge feature that doesn't get enough press.

Yeah this really bums me out because a lot of the time I just use Gmail on my laptop as my phone. Do you know any other services that have this type of functionality?

This makes no sense to me - why not integrate texts into Google Sheets or Google Maps? This feels like pushing unrelated projects to boost engagement. iMessage does not invade my email.

Didn't Google get badly burned integrating chat into gmail (Google buzz)?

Gmail has chat. It is gchat->hangouts. I love it.

What you said doesnt make sense is actually easy to get hooked up onto. I get a phone call, and i can answer it from my laptop, or it goes to voice mail and i get a transcript. It is amazing.

You may love it. Many, many other loved Gchat and abandoned hangouts immediately after the forced downgrade as an unbearable trash fire.

I too prefer keeping them separate. Thankfully there's hangouts.google.com.

The question was for kyrra specifically. I have Google Fi and I really enjoy hangouts. The "... something special" was what I was interested in, specifically I was interested in an insider's POV.

I know too much about it, that I can't say exactly why it's "special", sorry. Most of it would just have to do with internal organizational details.

The below is my take on Hangouts based on it's history here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Hangouts

It's interesting to remember that it was born out eating multiple existing services (GChat/GoogleTalk, Huddle, and some other things probably). When it launched, it was trying to cleanup Google's fragmented text/video messaging strategy.

One funny thing is how message history search worked. There is no in-app searching history. You can search on the Gmail desktop client and see history, but no where else (no mobile app. Not in Inbox. No-where but gmail desktop).

Along the way they added SMS support for it, which they later scrapped for everyone except Project Fi/Voice customers.

Hangouts has done a lot in the last 5.5 years (since its launch). It may have tried to do too much, which may have caused some problems (especially on usability).

Hangouts Chat and Meet seem to try to start fresh and build a good product focused on business customers. How that plays out for normal gmail consumers has yet to be seen; I'm really hoping they do a good job with it.

What you see as throwing shit at the wall, looks like testing market hypothesis to me.

Google isn't going to win the messaging space by building a kitchen sink messaging app that is compatible with everything, so they need to look for opportunities in the market that they can capitalize on.

Particularly since Google has regulators breathing down their neck, and carriers unwilling to allow an iMessage equivalent on Android.

Google has been working on chat for well over a decade. At what point do they stop "testing market hypothesis" and build the product people want to use?

I don't want to be a Google tester (market or beta), and certainly not for years on end. I don't care about "opportunities in the market that they can capitalize on". Just build one good chat system.

In the areas where Google excels, they didn't get there by applying this throw-everything-at-the-wall strategy. The design of Google Search wasn't the result of 13 years of betas. What do you do when nothing sticks?

If they can stumble around for this long and still feel the need to test half a dozen possible strategies, maybe the correct conclusion is that, unlike Search or Maps, Google doesn't really have anything as a company to offer this product category, and they should just get out and focus on areas where they can contribute.

The right thing isn't that hard to figure out, either.

Build iMessage, but make it work across android, ios, and desktop web.

Google has been testing the market since gchat. Doesnt mean it is working out.

It seems like Duo is working out. It has more than 500m installs, and isn't installed by default, so it's numbers aren't padded the same way Hangouts' are.

Allo, despite being shut down got to about the same size as Signal.

Are you sure it's not installed by default for at least some people? I never installed it, but it's on my Google Pixel.

It's installed by default only on the Pixels.

As a LG owner I can assure that several LG models also have it by default.

Is hangouts installed by default (i don't know), seem to have a billion installs, which looked a bit too high for both default-install, and non-default install.

It's installed by default on most Android devices, and a large portion of Asia's handset market (India) is dominated by Android, but messaging in India is dominated by Whatsapp. So almost-a-billion is bloated download numbers of Indian smartphones coming with hangouts installed, but none of them using it.

Just uninstalled Duo from a new Android phone.

Signal is rather niche, so is telegram.

This seems to me the start of what happened to GMail. As for Hangouts, it seems that this announcement suggests that Hangouts is moving to become a primarily G Suite brand.

Messaging: you have what you have now, Messages as a vanilla messaging app Allo and Duo as flavored products focusing on particular features for messaging.

Email: GMail as vanilla Inbox as a GTD-flavored that is having its most used features is being folded back into GMail.

Project fi actually DEPENDS on hangouts.

At some point in the last year, I wanted to jump into the "new chat ecosystem" and so I uninstalled hangouts to break bad habits. The entire phone becomes unable to connect to any network.

I love hangouts, and I wish RCS could just roll into it; but how did project fi end up so integrated?

> Project fi actually DEPENDS on hangouts.

No, it doesn't. In the beginning they strongly suggested that you use Hangouts for SMS on Fi, but they don't require it. I just use Messages on Fi.

Have you uninstalled hangouts, or are you just not using it?

Originally I had it uninstalled. I recently reinstalled it to use for a completely separate Google Voice account, but before that I had it uninstalled and I exclusively used Messages.

Messages mixes up SMS with chat, exactly what I don't want. SMS messages are usually used for couriers notifying about delivery, and spam. I use an SMS-only app on Android to make sure things don't get mixed up. I don't need SMS junk in my chats.

Somehow, I wonder if google is “just” very strong at analyzing vast amounts of data, but weak on core product development. Do they ask questions like who is this for, who will use this, for what purpose, how will they use it etc?

It definitely seems Google is bad at Product Design, but certainly they do not lack for the best talent, so is the problem based upon the structure of the org, stakeholders, something else, both, neither?

It's lack of vision. There are not many in the company who strives for the best product, or have the vision to make a change. As the company got larger, people started caring for more about career and less about great products. People who solve for some director's problem got promoted over the ones who truly deserved it.

Unfortunately, some of the smartest people i know now also looks down on google. This one kid that was an intern for me at MIT (whom i think was way smarter than i am) didn't even bother interviewing with google, he went to spacex.

It really seems like the company must be lacking top-down leadership. It almost seems cliché to bring up Steve Jobs here, but the contrast is striking. One could argue he took things too far the other way: There was one iPhone. It was the perfect size. Hell, there was one mouse button. It was the correct number of buttons. For everyone. But still, it's laughable to imagine this kind of fractured insanity happening at Apple, and for the most part that was to their benefit.

People underestimate the importance of leadership all the time. Google is a company built around being the smartest person in the room, but where are the leaders? A good leader is not necessarily the smartest (in a Google sense) person in the room. How does that person get put in a leadership position in a company like Google?

You mention Jobs. Was he smarter than Woz or a better engineer? No, but he was a much better leader. He inspired people to work, and relentlessly drove his vision. Obviously he didn't always make the right call, but I think we can say with confidence he would not have let this messaging mess drag on for close to 10 years now.

I honestly have no idea what this means for fi. We were made to move over to Hangouts so we could sms from Gmail or something and now it seems to be going away?

Bummer, isn't it? That was my favorite feature to be honest.

I think there's a lack of connection between Fi and google's other chat products (or even just hangouts and fi) in terms of roadmaps and so on. Fi graduated, now hangouts going away seems a bit... reverse.

I'm pretty sure this blog post was forced due to the recent articles about Hangouts and Allo on 9to5google.com [0], [1].

Thinking that Messages, which uses SMS and RCS were available, would have any impact on messaging is wishful thinking at best. Where I live almost nobody uses SMS for person to person conversations, it's mainly used for package notifications, 2FA codes, and so on. RCS isn't available as far as I know, and I wouldn't want to use a mobile only protocol controlled by the carriers anyway. It's strange that Google, a company that seems to have a phobia of native apps and wants everything done in the browser, would push for this kind of solution.

If Google had used some of their highly payed top tier engineers and at least one competent product manager to develop Hangouts instead of pushing out the mobile only, seemingly India focused, Allo they might have had a chance. Imagine being the person in a family or group of friends that convinced people to switch to Allo, you would look like a fool by now.

[0] https://9to5google.com/2018/12/02/google-hangouts-shutting-d...

[1] https://9to5google.com/2018/12/05/google-allo-shutting-down/

SMS is still huge in the US, especially because of iMessage integration

Yeah I still use it. I never used a messaging app post gtalk. So many different platforms, it just became a nightmare.

I am still after a lovely opensource cross-platform simple distributed secure messaging and video platform.

I'd read that Allo was being abandoned for Messages. And I'd never heard of Duo until this post. Very confused naming and products at Google. I was trying to get my head around the differences between Play Music and Youtube Music yesterday - a case in point.

> Where I live almost nobody uses SMS for person to person

Isn't that recursive thinking? No one uses SMS because it's primitive and limited compared to regular messengers.

> I wouldn't want to use a mobile only protocol

I'm curious, but could RCS be interchangeably used both through provider and through a host such as Google? Could Google not host their own RCS backend?

> No one uses SMS because it's primitive and limited compared to regular messengers.

You also have to take into account that SMS is 5-10 times more expensive almost everywhere outside the US. Unless you have a flat-rate plan, a single 140 character messages is about 10 cents where I live. And even if you have a flat-rate plan for domestic messages, it's 1-2 USD (per message!) when sent to friends and family abroad. I don't use SMS because it's just being ridiculously over-priced. I want my device to use data to send data, regardless of what kind it is.

" more expensive almost everywhere outside the US."

It's (sms/texting) free (http://mobile.free.fr/) and unlimited on a 2 euros monthly phone subscription with 2 hours of voice communication in France. That makes it the cheapest way to communicate at all, here. Cheaper than voice and much cheaper than internet data. Even the absolute poorest of the country can use texting. It's more accessible than DATA driven apps and can run on dumb phones.

It's also very unreliable if you're messaging abroad. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If you're roaming and so is the other person, it becomes even trickier. At least data works and within the EU is pretty much free.

It doesn't matter why, the fact of the matter is that no one uses SMS in these places, which is also true wherever I've lived.

People use Whatsapp primarily, or facebook messenger, or (in my bubble anyway, not so widespread) Telegram. These products have the network effect already established, and no one is likely to go back to crappy SMS, even if it is dressed up.

>No one uses SMS because it's primitive and limited compared to regular messengers.

No, noone uses it because it doesn't use data. I walk into a supermarket and lose signal so I can't SMS anymore. I can use the wifi to send messages even without signal.

Yes, I know there are SMS over Wifi apps, but they're proprietary and usually require signal to enable.

I don't use Android's Messages for SMS, I installed a special-purpose SMS app specifically to avoid mixing Internet-based messages with SMS-based messages. I have zero interest in intermixing the two.

Other articles have indicated that Google is going the RCS route because they don’t want to rock the boat with mobile carriers, who do not want to see a proprietary chat system like iMessage on their networks.

Someone at Google just wants to make sure that people know where they can go for a consistent and stable messaging experience. I'm just not quite sure if they intend that to be Skype, Facebook, Slack or maybe Discord.

Google chat services have always been a big joke to me. I'd cringe any time someone said "can we Hangout" or "Google Hangout". It's like nobody at google knows what "hang out" means and how that does not apply to conversations.

Is it just me or does Google basically throw a bunch of money at a bunch of things to see what sticks, scrap the failures and repeat the process over and over again - and in the process messing with services some people actually like.

I can no longer put trust in Google's consumer product reliability knowing that at any point Google will shut the service down because it does not meet some internal quota on usage.

Could be worse. They could have named it "Chill"

Shhh! Don't give them ideas!

IRC is the most consistent and stable, just saying ;)

Its WhatsApp expect for Americans users i suppose.

I've been in many come-to-Jesus meetings wherein Leadership acknowledges their strategic failures, then busts out a presentation detailing the New Strategy, consisting of mild tweaks of the Existing Strategy.

Mild tweaks are great because they spare Leadership the pain of making hard decisions.

> And by refocusing on Messages and Duo for consumers and Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet for team collaboration

"Instead of working on five products, we're 'refocusing' down to four products." Right.

This has the stench of a post-faction justification that expertly avoids stepping on too many toes. IME Leadership gets axed by Senior Leadership not too long after.

They also fail to address Google Voice, their VOIP/SMS-OIP app. Here's to hoping they don't cancel it down the line too.

What gets me about the entire Google messaging ecosystem is how they manage to be so bad. My messaging system of choice is Signal, and it looks to be about three or four full time people that work on that. It manages to handle SMS, Grop Chat, Video Chat, and End to End encrypted chat for me. I imagine there are more Vice Presidents assigned to Allo then there are employees at Signal, and signal manages to out compete them.

Signal and Allo actually have a similar number of installs, they're both in the 10-50m installs bucket in the Play store.

I use Signal, but it's fine at best, but it's not really going to break out of it's niche.

I can't deal with how signal desktop works. I DO NOT want messaging tied to my phone. I want it tied to an account that works wherever I sign in. I'd love to use Signal, but can't deal with that.

You want XMPP or Matrix.

Or, realistically, Discord. I love open protocols but I do want a certain level of polish in the products I use.

Sounds like what you are looking for is Wire (wire.com).

Desktop/mobile clients. No need for phone to login.

Oh, and server code written in Haskell :)

That doesn’t count all of the iOS people that also use Signal. I use Signal and Apple Messages and didn’t even know Allo existed. I have a perhaps irrational fear of using messaging from Google or Facebook because they have lost my trust.

Why would anyone invest in a Google messaging system when Google is prone to kill it off randomly?

> Why would anyone invest in a Google messaging system when Google is prone to kill it off randomly?

This is definitely where I'm at. I presume this is all about internal warring fiefdoms, because from the outside it makes no sense.

Why do people ever switch chat apps? Besides shutdowns, it's because the new app does something the old one doesn't. Signal's pitch was easy encrypted messaging, but now there are apps that fill that slot, even Facebook Messenger has e2e encrypted chat, so there's not a lot of reason for Google to invest there.

Google Duo has succeeded as an app known for making video calls, which is as much a marketing/positioning achievement as it is a technical one.

There are lots of people declaring they will use a Google product in this thread, but of course no one is going to use a nonexistent product that people imagine as a clone of what already exists. Unless Google finds an "in", they're not going to get anywhere, even with whatever perfect app HN imagines.

It's not really fair to compare installs when Signal doesn't have the free marketing that comes with being a product created and pushed by Google.

I have it plugged into SMS so for me it also works for people who haven't upgraded from SMS yet

What I love about Signal is their philosophy of "if it's not user friendly, nobody will use it, therefore it won't help anybody."

It's kind of like how Apple will combine security updates with stuff like new emojis: to increase the incentive for the general populus to update.

I sometimes compare Signal to iMessage, except it's cross-platform and private.

signal on desktop it's next to useless and good luck sharing pictures through signal, which it's basic functionality they haven't fixed for years, who is fine with sharing pictures one by one? what is this 90s?

and PulseSMS is run by a single person, and it's excellent.

I saw the title and thought: "Finally, they're going to admit to what a mess they've created and propose a way forward". But nope, just a PR fluff post.

FAQ: how start a video call using Google products?

Answer: Go to Gmail and send an email to the other party "can you Skype now?".

Literally. I had to schedule a video call recently by email. There is simply no formulation to schedule a video call using the name of one of google's products.

"Can you Hangout tomorrow?", "Can you Duo tomorrow", "Can you chat with Allo tomorrow?".

Nothing would work without confusing the other party with some probability. "Can you Skype tomorrow" always works, with everyone, no confusion.

To which many would reply, "Yes, I can Skype with you. I am at work, so I'll be using my Skype for Business program which recently replaced Lync. My Skype will talk to yours, right? Oh it says here that Skype for Business (which used to be Lync (which used to be Office Communicator)), is now Teams, so uhh can you just call me on my phone instead. Thanks

Skype for Business and Teams are not the same app. That said, I've found Teams very lacking in exactly the way Skype is not, and Skype lacking in exactly the way Teams is not which is very frustrating.

SfB is deprecated, and Teams is designated its replacement.

Creating a google calendar event with an embedded link to a hangouts room works pretty well in my experience.

Second this. Clicking on the add hangouts link is dead simple and does exactly what the OP wants

i don't think OPs problem is the product itself, just the name. he wants a verb-able product name like Skype.

personally, i just go with "can we talk tomorrow" instead of "can we skype tomorrow", and leave the choice of app for a follow up. I don't think being able to use the product name as a verb is an essential feature of a videoconference app.

Do we really need to morph the name of every random software product into a verb? "Can you video chat tomorrow?" is plenty short and to the point. Add "on <product name>" if you really need to.

If you are a paying gsuite customer then the answer is meet.google.com (formerly hangouts?)

Despite the rebrand, it works remarkably well. Much better than Skype.

Is this a joke? That whole blog post reads like satire.

Communicating with the people in our lives is one of the most important things we do every day, whether it’s chatting with friends about an upcoming trip, calling mom to check in, or touching base with colleagues.

So when I'm forced to move off hangouts for those connections that I still user over it - what do you think the chances are that I will choose a google product?

Does anyone think that now is Microsoft's best chance to revive Skype as a household name synonymous with chat and video calls? I doubt anyone would want to use any chat app from Google anymore, Facebook is getting really bad PR which could affect WhatsApp as well soon enough. Signal and Telegram are good alternatives but lack marketing muscle. Slack and Discord are mainly used for group chat in professional and gaming circles.

Skype was almost a genericized trademark meaning video call, that seems to have been taken over by Facetime to some extent. If Microsoft would make it easy to chat with friends and businesses from the same app, and threw some fresh paint on it, they might take some of the market back.

They could... if their own messaging strategy wasn’t almost as bad as Google’s. Skype just got a top-to-bottom redesign that everyone hates, and Teams (which may or may not be the replacement for Lync, or Skype for Business, or whatever it’s called now) is like a checklist of everything terrible about Electron applications: it’s slow as molasses, uses boatloads of memory, and has no integration with the host OS. It’s actually worse than Slack, which is an impressive feat!

There’s something hilariously tragic about this being the perfect opportunity for Microsoft to deliver Google a coup-de-grace on messaging, and they can’t do it because they’re just as incompetent.

I use skype right now to chat with some friends and it actually works really well for me. Cross platform, video calls, captioning now available is really awesome.

Does it work from within a browser yet? Last time I tried, installing Skype was a surprising hassle on my Windows machine; there were at least two versions being offered through various Microsoft channels, and they appeared to have different feature sets, and I couldn't tell which one of them I ought to be using or if one was deprecated. Discord has spoiled me with chat that Just Works on the web.

Try https://preview.web.skype.com/

It is the universal Skype written in React (works natively on windows and electroned on other Desktop OSes)

> Browser not supported

> Use Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome to access Skype for Web (Preview) experience.

> Alternatively, download Skype on your desktop computer.

That is on up to date Firefox on Debian unstable. Bravo.

Same result on current Firefox with Windows 10

Yikes, did not know that.

"Universal": Browser not supported

Use Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome to access Skype for Web (Preview) experience.

Alternatively, download Skype on your desktop computer.

When in doubt, use the desktop version. To be honest, its a very simple decision in the windows world, and I'm not sure what tripped you unless you're nee to windows.

It really doesn't work well. I tried making a simple call with web skype with my parents the other day; neither them - android tablet - nor me - linux desktop - could accept the call when video was on by default. We couldn't turn video on if we initiated a voice call either, because it immediately crashed and stop the call.

We ended up using appear.in without a glitch.

... captioning?

You mean, Speech-To-Text that gets forwarded to the NSA, otherwise used by Microsoft for who-knows-what while the transition to an ad company with Win10 ?

Sounds great, but I don't think that's going to be a good alternative for the people who are looking to dump Facebook/WhatsApp/Google over privacy concerns.

Yep, that one!

Useful for people that are deaf and hard of hearing....

skype feels too slow for casual messaging. WhatsApp is the best solution right now - both messaging and video/calls.

I don't know anyone who uses it as their casual messaging client, and I've never used their mobile app. But looking at it now it looks decent, and if they wanted to they could probably match their competitors pretty quickly, if they're not already. The rest is mostly marketing, I'm thinking they could use their reputation as a reliable long term partner to their advantage, and maybe promise to not use peoples contacts to sell ads.

Skype is basically dead at this point, and Microsoft is instead focusing efforts towards its Slack competitor.

Only dead for business, MS is still heavily invested in Skype and just released a major update on all platforms.

Last time I had the Skype app installed it was trying to clone Snapchat and crashed when I tried to message someone. Admittedly that was a while ago, but I'm not sure where they were trying to go with it.

While we are a Google shop for the most part when it comes to messaging, we use Skype for colleagues in China or when traveling there. It is far better quality compared to Hangouts in the Great Firewall.

Discord has eaten skype's lunch. there is no market left to revive too. Skype feels painfully outdated to use in comparison

How are they still getting this wrong.

One app for consumers with video and messaging. Make it good, marry it, and shoot the others into the sun.

I don't think the problem is even one app. They should have had a central board where people set interoperability standards then they can build multiple apps. As long as hangouts could talk with Allo etc it doesn't matter and people can use the one they prefer and it's irelevant to another person's descion.

Now Google have dug a deeper hole as there is little change any tech influencer is going to use or promote Google messaging apps to their circle.

Personally I'm available on Signal, Skype and WhatsApp and it's going to take a hell of a change to make me care about trying something else.

It's so many things Google can't decide what they want. Almost all their Google services are login-based. Your gmail login works on search, on youtube, on calendar, on anything really. Yes. On Hangouts too. But not Allo/Duo. Someone thought it would be hipper to throw that out the window and have people use their phone number instead. Cool. Sure. But why make that the only choice for almost a year?

It's like nobody at Google uses an iPhone or has heard of Facetime. "Oh look, there's an app that lets you call and at a tap of a button turns that call into video! I wonder if we should do something similar?" "- nah, that would be too easy."

I've had that for 10 years with google. I don't understand. I look at a contact while in gmail, click on it to go to hangouts and click the video call button.

It really is that simple. It's really shocking that a company like Google has failed over and over at this. Apple nailed it on the first try. Both iMessage and FaceTime.

What's more frustrating is that Google had Google Talk. It was super successful and really well liked. Rather than maintain and improve it, they threw it away.

I have lived back and forth between Europe and the USA over the last few years. Communication is always the most difficult part of the move. It's a reminder of how far off our tech is from the true ideal.

In Europe, everyone has WhatsApp. For a while, this was great! One app, one "to reply" list. A taste of what messaging could be.

I quickly found myself frustrated. WhatsApp relies on phone numbers, which muddies up my contacts with people who keep old numbers for WhatsApp but do SMS and calls on another. Then there was the time I switched my WhatsApp number and couldn't receive messages from anyone until I sent them a message first-- inadvertently pissing off a few friends of mine before I realized.

And now, being back in the States, Europeans are trying to call the number listed on WhatsApp, and getting voicemail, and I have to change my email signature to encourage them not to.

And my American colleages are sending me SMS and calling, but using my old number from last year. Verizon won't let me keep a SIM for more than a few months, so I have to pay the activation fee every year, and I can't use a different provider because I bought a Verizon branded phone (NEVER AGAIN) and I want LTE and Hotspots to work.

And my mom is used to iMessage, so she sends me horribly compressed photos via SMS, no matter how often I tell her to send elsewhere. Who knows how many she tried to send to my old number...

On top of all of this, I have active group chats going in WhatsApp, SMS, Slack, Discord and Facebook messenger on any given day. I always forget who said what, where. Digging up old addresses and contacts that people sent me is a nightmare.

I often think about sending a mass message telling everyone to switch to ONE_PERFECT_MESSAGING_APP. I thought that might be Allo (or is it Duo? Which one is chat?). Imagine my anger if I had actually tried that! Thankfully my euro tech skeptics talked me out of it-- "I will never switch to a Google app!", they said.

What can I do? I feel hopeless, trapped between tech Giants making economic decisions that hurt me, instead of working together to make our lives easier (like they claim at the beginning of this PR piece)

EDIT: I don't like whining, I like solving problems-- so I created a therapy group called OOMA - Only One Messaging App - and we are going to solve this humanitarian problem. Our discord is here https://discord.gg/CmdgUp

This is the brilliance of iMessage where it gets critical mass- fallback to SMS but pushing the iMessage identity tied to an account that follows you to new phones/devices.

I think that iMessage network effect is a big reason for the steady market share growth of iPhone in the US- none of the competitive apps have cross-generational appeal, just iMessage.

I agree with you, but a hardware specific messaging app is just stupid.

As you can tell by the length of my last post, thinking about this situation has got me upset.

So upset, that right now I've decided to launch a non-profit, open collective organization called OOMA. Only One Messaging App.

OOMA will be comprised of the millions of people who are annoyed and upset at the result of tech companies competing for our communication. We are taking things into our own hands. We are agreeing to switch to ONE service, for ALL of our messaging needs. All of us, all over the world, all at once.

We are going to do 5 things, in order: 1. Choose a switch date. 2. Define a spec for the "perfect messaging app" (encryption, licensing, finance model, features, tech, etc.) 3. Invite companies to pitch their app, and/or secure funding to develop our own to spec. 4. Spread the word. 5. Make the switch.

I'm going to prepare a marketing web page and (ironically) a discord server right now. At the very worst it's a fun side project and way to express my anger.

EDIT: OOMA server is live. If you think an app is not the solution, come tell us why: https://discord.gg/CmdgUp

> a hardware specific messaging app is just stupid.

What's the old phrase? If it looks stupid but it works, its not stupid. Say hello to the world's most valuable public company and what is commonly regarded as the world's highest quality messaging network.

A truth technologists hate hearing: You cannot, under any circumstances, solve problems created by code by creating more code.

XKCD has a comic for just this situation: https://xkcd.com/927/

Hahaha I had that in my copy clipboard while typing the post :)

For real though, has any sort of movement or organization tried to alleviate these problems without financial motivation?

I encourage you to read about matrix [https://matrix.org] - the protocol. In addition, there are numerous open source clients to use [https://matrix.org/docs/projects/clients-matrix]. Also, as far as organizations, matrix.org has recently become a foundation moving towards somewhat you described [https://matrix.org/blog/2018/10/29/introducing-the-matrix-or...].

I would say that would not be done by "an app", nor "a service with an API exposed", but by "a protocol" that other/most/all apps follow. Jabber/XMPP comes to mind, so does Matrix.

Ooooh - the worlds biggest bikeshed ;)

Right, building another messaging app is not the right approach. But choosing one of the many existing solutions, and somehow convincing all of my social circle to move to it-- that's the problem I want to solve! Has anyone done it before?

Wouldn't a federated solution be better though? After all email and SMS are decentralized, albeit somewhat archaic.

If email and SMS was invented today, they wouldn't be open and decentralized. Everything is locked and centralized nowadays, since everything is tied to accounts at companies wanting to make money of of you. It's the current state of the Internet, a world wide open network with siloed incompatible services.

I'm actually contemplating ICQ, it's still around and looks no worse than any other service. Matrix might be a better solution though, it's federated and open. https://matrix.org/blog/home/

Yep. 20 years ago, if you developed something cool, you open sourced it. Now, you turn it into a SAAS startup and monetize it to make your millions.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

ICQ, AIM, MSN Messenger, PawWaw, Yahoo Messenger, Odigo, (and 30 more names I can't remeber) - there was a huge instant messaging war, the first stage of which was decidedly won by AOL (with AIM and the purchase of ICQ), but Microsoft later made great headway through sheer monopoly force and persistence - but that eventually became irrelevant with SMS taking over as the main form of instant messaging and then WhatsApp taking the world by storm.

None of this was open source. Not a single one of the successful messengers. In fact, AOL fought alternative clients fiercely all the time, and Microsoft started fighting them as soon as they got non-trivial market share.

What about XMPP (Which started life as Jabber before being standardized?)? Well, that one is open source. But it only survived and flourished because all the commercial outfits were busy fighting each other.

I was tangentially involved with the failed instant messaging standardization process at the turn of the millennium, and Jabber was by far the worst technical proposal at the time -- but the process was political, and when the committee disbanded due to all the political infighting, Jabber, which didn't have the commercial interests, was the remaining option.

sorenjan referenced matrix...and honestly, that's the way to go.

Until you find the ultimate solution (good luck), here's my practical solution:

1) Port your US number to Google Voice for a one time fee of $25 ; from now on, you can use this number to forward to your new verizon number (also: T-Mobile had much better plans for only a few months at a time, every single time I checked).

2) Get service in Europe from an Illiad affiliated phone company; At least in the past, that included free US numbers you could forward your US google voice to freely -- as well as 15-45 days of free US roaming service. Maybe these offers are gone now - you could just pay $1/month or so to LocalPhone or a similar company to do that forwarding for you.

3) Buy the cheapest Android handset running a recent version (for security updates); I got a new Meizu m6 for ~$90, you could probably go lower for 1st hand or get a 2nd hand at $40 or so.

4) When travelling, switch SIMs between main phone and cheap phone, set up forwarding (directly if included in plan, or through LocalPhone or similar if not), and keep cheap phone on WiFi only, plugged in charging at home, and mostly accessible for when needed.

5) Use WhatsApp web on the new phone to continue using old WhatsApp number. Less than ideal - messages don't pop up - but it works well.

For about $100 one time[0], and about $1/month or so, you could to keep both numbers fully functional and working indefinitely.

[0] Ok, so you'll have to upgrade the cheap phone for security reasons every few years. So not exactly one time, but possible $20/year amortized, or free if you don't trade-in your old main phone and just let it rot like many people do.

What’s wrong with iOS Messages? I can text literally everyone I know. I don’t even know what it does under the hood.

It's hardware specific! Most of the planet is on Android. If there is a way to do iMessage on Android, I can at least say that not many people know how.

I think that's where Google Messages is headed unless they somehow decide to put it on other app stores.

The only “green” people I know are google employees and my mom, who can’t afford an iPhone. The solution is simple to their problem- buy an iPhone.

It’s almost like the iPhone is a fetish or totem that grants access to iMessage (although you can message from macos or iCloud.com impractically).

It’s quite strange how this is a very simple, solved, problem for iPhone for many years. Google can fix it by literally cloning iMessage and arguing with carriers. They don’t. I suspect it’s because they want to be the only one with access to the cleartext and they aren’t willing to make a consumer-focused decision to keep all messages ciphertext.

So “most of the planet” has to suffer Google’s anti-consumer decision.

Okay, your experience is ... not representative. In this world there are tons of people using iphones, tons of other people using android. You see both frequently. There happen to be way more people using android but it doesn't matter, because there are sizable numbers using both, we should only consider solutions that work on both.

I agree, it’s not representative at all. But my point is that android users have problems because of the device they buy. There are likely trade offs. But google doesn’t want to solve this problem on a way that customers want.

It’s like buying a diesel vehicle and then complaining that the hybrid systems suck for them. Don’t buy a diesel if you want hybrid engines. Or work with the manufacturer to change their incentive model.

But google is an ad company and is unlikely to make products where it is hard to sell ads.

I don't get your response. You have an app that only works on Apples, so you are basically suggesting that they should abandon android. But other people probably have an app that they require that is not on iphones. There are many different chat apps with billions of users that didn't come from Google and work on androids. Google is not stealing your text messages, if that's what you are thinking somehow.

And if your "Only One Messaging App" is a monoculture proprietary product with dubious profit goals than you can count me, and large swaths of tech minded people, out.

The only way forward is either Matrix or something like it. And even then you need enough momentum to bend all the walled gardens of Google / MS / FB / etc to have to play ball with a common federated protocol. Good luck getting that without the ludicrous budgets the market leaders have to throw at trying to force everyone into their own proprietary chat bubble.

We almost had that in the mid 2000s and the Google jumped ship first to Hangouts. They basically started this whole mess by going from a time where MSN Messenger, Facebook Messenger, and Google Talk were all speaking the same XMPP language. Since then all three have gone total proprietary with design decisions around locking people in than providing a useful product.

Some things are fine to have proprietary giants trying to fight for your eyeballs over, such as entertainment. But communication should be something we can agree on, as a society. This is the kind of thing we should have international interoperable standards on. Email was a lucky break that SMTP and IMAP ended up being mandatory, because even today Google is trying their damn hardest to implement Gmail in anything other but an interoperable way but know it would destroy their product to ever turn the compatibility off.

I agree. But I can think of two alternatives that you don't mention:

1. A centralized and proprietary system, but with a transparent and non-profit governance structure. I understand the costs and technical challenges of global communication are bigger than say, wikipedia... but is it impossible?

2. The power of collective action. Communications apps don't put users first because we have no bargaining power. What would they do for us if we threatened to leave, en-mass (or vice versa, if enough people offered to collectively adopt their solution?).

And honestly, the problem might be better approached as a personal, social one: I don't care what the world uses, how do I get my social and professional circle to adopt one single solution?

This is more what I have in mind with "Only One Messaging App". We've grown 800% in the last quarter, so keep an eye out for us :P

I worked around the problem you describe by getting a google voice number and using that at the front end for my real numbers. My GV# is the face for whatsapp, telegram, whatever asks for my number. Also helps that I can send and receive sms over data or WiFi anywhere in the world.

Doesn’t work with some sms gateways that don’t y’all GV, but the best international I know.

Each country gets a new sim with a local number for data and local texts but I never give it out.

I tried this a few years ago, it only worked for American customers. But it did save me some money making calls. Last I checked they basically abandoned their mobile app for a near decade...

The mobile app is poor, but can send texts and push text alerts to me.

I think GV is limited to US numbers and you have to have a US number to sign up.

It places a burden on my contacts who want to send an sms because they have to use international rates. But it’s better than not being able to text me.

The GV app is usable again recently - it was never really abandoned, just not given any major attention for a while. It did lose the "call back" option, which is a bummer.

However, installing the Hangouts client will let you use it as a better GV app for every day use (messages/voice, for settings and stuff you still need the GV app or the GV website).

At least until Hangout dies ...

They revived the app sometime last year and it's back in a usable state now.

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