It seems pretty clear that if they had settled on one brand ID for messaging and just iterated and refined on that for the past 15 years, they'd be light years ahead of where they are now and, I daresay, the dominant player. Everyone I know was using Google Talk after AIM, MSN messenger, and ICQ died (except we all called it GChat) because we already had GMail accounts. They could have built on that instead of throwing it all away. Now everybody's on iMessage, SMS, or WhatsApp.
Or, cast your mind back to the distant year of 2016. Hangouts was more than okay enough for most use cases (IIRC it even had SMS integration/fallback), and then Allo and Duo came along and Hangouts got canned. Allo was trash from the beginning (why did it exist at all?) and while Duo was (and continues to be!) great thanks to its adoption of QUIC, there was absolutely no reason for it to be a standalone app instead of a new feature in the Hangouts app.
Allo, like Tez, which is now Google Pay, was targeting the Indian market considerably by way of using phone numbers for identity, instead of the Google Account infrastructure that already existed. The lure was that it was supposed to be easier to setup and already had a social graph. I believe Allo and Duo were supposed to be complementary and fight against WhatsApp dominance. Tez “won” only because they were giving out cash. Allo obviously never did that.
But that’s why it wasn’t integrated into the rest of the ecosystem: it was a Google product but not tied to your account to try to fight against WhatsApp, et al., which left it on its own island, which didn’t work very well.
Of course it was too good to be true. Google taketh away.
I can understand poor design choices from a engineering heavy org - but why do the products get technically worse (less featureful, less integrated) over time?
I suspect there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
At some point that was true for Facebook chat too.
But then both companies decided that chat system interoperability was bad for their business (which I'm not sure is true).
Issues with XMPP support were big reasons I stopped using Google's messaging apps altogether. (It didn't help that at the time I was using GSuite as primary XMPP, because I wanted my primary Jabber ID on a domain I controlled, and communicating with Gmail primary users I recall seemed through a weird internal federation boundary that had its own strange federation issues even before Google started shutting down outside federation.)
1. Teams in the organisation create some good products that solve specific discrete requirements, such as an email client, a document editor, text chat, audio calls, video calls, video conferencing, etc. This usually goes along with marketing slogans like “x, reinvented” etc
2. Someone comes up with this great vision of a single unified interface in which all those discrete apps are integrated. The marketing here usually includes terms like “seamless”, “enterprise” etc.
3. Some other people notice that the discrete products have become so tightly integrated that they are missing out on users that do not want to sign up for the integrated enterprise experience, but who just want the discrete product feature. Usually competitors will have stepped into that void created in step 2 and it’s easy to convince management that they’re leaving money on the table for competitors. Just extracting some features into a stand-alone product is sold internally as a quick-win (it never is).
4. Go back to step 2
I don't get why people keep making this point. I would say that no, the opposite is true: what you say starts out true, but the shifts are what killed everything. There was one good effort built on the "Google social graph" (ie. GTalk) that provided great service. It really increased the usefulness of gmail. Everything else decreased it's usefulness.
Then direction from above came, with Hangouts and Google Plus, their facebook competitor ... and destroyed one market at a time. Some market they didn't judge important.
(probably not in the correct order)
* Business/startup market (XMPP bots/integrations, there were companies using even GTalk as a way-before-slack business chatroom)
* Voice/video market got dropped (first time round: the integration with the PBX network)
* Google Fi integration got dropped
* GSuite integration got dropped
* XMPP market (obviously the techies fell under this)
* Voice/video got dropped (second time round: direct voice/video chat in Hangouts), in order to get critical mass for Allo/Duo, to support "only phone number" accounts
* Everything BUT Gsuite integration got dropped, in order to get critical mass for "GChat"
* Voice/video got mostly reinstated when the path for Allo/Duo became clear
* Voice/video got killed AGAIN in favor of "Google Meet" meetings, I believe first by limiting number of participants, then just dropping every form of video
I mean, even now I feel like people are showing INCREDIBLE loyalty to Gmail/GChat and Google is attempting to pull the rug somewhat from under them, in order to support their now enterprise initiatives.
And yet the one feature every enterprise has been screaming for to make gmail usable for business, shared inboxes and maybe some form of basic CRM is still not there (are people still having business-wide google accounts they hang out the password for in next to the door just so 5 people can respond to info@company ?).
I feel like Gmail's trajectory has roughly been this: 0 -> EXCELLENT product (in maybe 1 year total) -> today (14 years of focus shifting, abandoning one userbase per year) ...
I think the solution is to focus on Gmail as an email product with perhaps chat integration, but nothing more. THAT was what was needed. GTalk/Hangouts was always the chat app for more serious people. Google kept trying again and again to make it the app for whatever Google's focus was in $year, never did a good job, but abandoned part of the userbase with every focus shift.
Fortunately XMPP has caught up in the past decade feature-wise (except cross-platform video calls I guess) and I managed to convince some friends to use Conversations but this could have played out differently had it not been for G+.
Google's constant messanger churn tires regular users that just want to communicate instead of taking part in Google's internal political/promotion experiments.
There was no reason to depreciate it and abandon it.
At this point, I'll not use another Google messenger. They've made it clear enough it either won't be updated (hangouts), or will be killed off in 2 years(allo).
Thanks to this lots of people even started using it as a sort of proto-Google-Docs for long-distance collaboration, e.g. songwriting:
"Das Racist is the new Kool G Rap. Peep us at the Grammies: 'We’d like to thank G-chat'" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz5YjQ-AT3k
Also a good hint right there at their future naming confusion https://observer.com/2012/02/google-says-gchat-is-not-a-word... :)
We finally switched to Discord last month, the lack of integration with the Google Suite is a pity but the experience with Google Chat for a small organization was just too painful and not understandable.
However, I've just tried again to be sure and I'm still unable to create a group chat with someone outside my org (that I've added to a channel), unable to reply to a specific message in a conversation, unable to edit some messages. As an admin I am also unable to perform any kind of moderation in a channel (arguably, that's not a showstopper, but it is weird not to have admin rights over my organization chat). Also, switching back and forth between two conversations still shows a very noticeable delay with a spinner which really hampers the experience.
Hopefully the changes you see in the pre-release will be deployed soon and fix some of those issues.
It’s not Googles style, but I’d love for someone at Google to explain Chat and why they think the current UI is any good.
Edit: Oh, let’s not forget Google also bought Meebo and buried it right away. Good times.
They need to stop figuring it out, and just stick with something.
They did it with Google Talk but could not replicate it, which tends to show that they (collectively; I am sure some people at Google could predict what would happen) did not really know what they were doing.
Edit: SMS isn't even (fully) defined in 5GNR standards, so if RCS broke it's worse than useless.
RCS is brought to you by the carriers that can't make SMS work reliably and made MMS work even worse. The only way it's gotten any traction is because Google decided to just declare itself as the backing server by force. But as you said, how long can we expect Google to run it?
And, what does it give us? Another messaging service that I have to see if someone is on before I message them? But with easier authentication, I guess. And, since it's carrier based and maybe? falls back to SMS, I assume I could get billed for messages (especially international messages). Yay, I guess?
Supposedly RCS has an E2E spec now, but given how long it has taken to roll out how minimally it has, I would expect the E2E rollout to take even longer. Again, I'm biased, but E2E is kind of a basic requirement of personal messaging at this point.
Standards are great, but fiefdom attempts pretending to be standards not so much. Nothing about RCS' architecture really sells that it is a better standard (or really much of a standard at all) compared to XMPP or Matrix (or IRC for that matter) especially when the vast part of the data plane is so complex there's only ever really been one vendor (Vibe/Google).
God I hope not. At least WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption.
not to mention the whole crypto debacle happening concurrently
I could have said Telegram who hasn't been proved to leak anything for years, but that isn't accepted here as there was a flaw in their crypto in an early version (remember, a year or so after WhatsApp was caught sending messages in cleartext over port 443!)
On another note, I think by now it is too late for google to ever make a messaging product to compete with the others. Mainly because amongst tech enthusiasts google has lost the "cool" reputation of not being evil, and they have been burned by too many cancelled products. These people are early adopters that often push others to a platform. Google would really need to come up with something much better than everything else to outweigh this. I am doubtful that is even possible, especially for google based on their history.
The launch-to-promo culture in engineering is real. But no engineer has any bearing on the "new product"-level decisions. What us mere mortals can do, is to try to convince the product management and UX designers to launch a feature in the vein of "clear the clutter" in Photos or "walk between nearby public transport stops to transfer" in Maps that we know how to implement.
But "replace Hangouts with a SMS client, personal chat, personal calls, enterprise chat, enterprise calls and some auxiliary apps" is definitely decided at VP or even SVP level. They don't get promoted on "code launched to production".
That makes it they're all spending their time pitching these ideas left and right to the execs until one bites.
This was a small widget right on www.google.com, you clicked it and could post a tweet (let's call a spade a spade) right from the homepage. I always thought that was a pretty gutsy move.
One of my favorite ideas that was kicked around by Brett Lider during these days was the ability to double like something, and perhaps even let people give as many likes as they wanted! It sounds silly, but if you have a product where you might be able to sneak in a "double like" button I say do it!
Makes me think of the claps on Medium articles
This was a mistake on my part but it was my singular ambition in life to build a messaging company to sell it to them to make money off this problem. After moderate success (several million in revenue) I reached out to them and they blew me off. So at least in my experience they aren't overly excited about acquiring companies to get people in the building who specialize in this.
Um, no, I don't. They are in fact in the lead in most areas, particularly video calls which in my experience are the best in terms of stability and quality. Discord being a close second-video and audio quality is at the same level but the file-sharing experience is incredibly miserable(even worse than the google drive integration). I think google's biggest problem is the "they are spying on me" rhetoric. All while the biggest player in the game-zoom has been proven to be a lot more guilty in that regard.
For me personally, the hesitation has nothing to do with such rhetoric. I simply don't want to invest into another Google's chat experience, only for it to be eventually killed off again.
I gave it my honest try with Hangouts, the experience started getting better and better, my friends slowly started switching to and settling on Hangouts. And then it was suddenly killed off in favor of Allo+Duo (only for Allo to be killed off shortly after). After my personal experience with Hangouts and watching the Allo situation closely, the only thing that will make me come back is Google stopping the trend of randomly killing off anything that isn't Gmail, search, and Youtube.
I guess you use Chrome? Or have Google fixed it?
But a web product isn't good quality when it deliberately doesn't work well on Firefox.
(Yep, I refuse to believe that Google "forgot" to test on Firefox and they aren't so incompetent that they can't make it work if they want :-/)
Wave probably would have had much more time to figure out its place in the world if it arrived closer to the original GTalk/GReader launches than closer to their shutdowns.
If they try to somehow meddle with it, they'll destroy it.
The problem is, on the tablets I have for my kids (Galaxy Tab A) the GMail app doesn't include the Chat feature! So google has effectively killed my ability to chat with my kids. (Yes I checked settings, nothing to enable there)
I need to move to something else. still not sure what yet.