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Ask HN: How did Google botch messaging/video/hangouts so badly?
166 points by davidw 30 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 95 comments
Several years ago, from within Gmail, I could:

* Make a phone call

* Send an SMS

* Send a Google chat

* Start a video call with my parents

Now, all of this has been split up, and to start a video call, I have to start a video and send an email inviting someone. SMS has been split up into a separate web app that won't work without my phone being present.

How did it come to pass that they took an easy, integrated system and mangled it so badly? I mean, it wasn't perfect, but it mostly just worked, and was easy to use.

I'd guess that it's a combination of things, but I think what sticks out to me is that a) they probably hit a plateau and felt like they needed to do something to break out of that (and didn't really have a good idea so they started "mixing things up"); and b) messaging seems like a product that everyone wants to solve, but doesn't necessarily offer amazing monetary returns.

I loved GChat. It was simple. I could use Pidgin or Adium or any number of third-party clients. It did what I needed. However, I'm guessing at some point, they were working on and maintaining a product that didn't really have the metrics that they were looking for. Growth probably slowed a lot once so many people were using it (so the honeymoon phase of "we'll figure out the money and strategy later" was over). Likewise, one of the great things about GChat was that it felt so un-monetized. There were no ads or anything. Compared to the alternatives of the day like AIM, Yahoo, MSN, etc. it just felt like this easy, clean, simple messenger that worked without distractions.

When you're a company worth so many billions (now nearly two trillion), why are you putting engineering time into something that seems to have little growth and little money? Shouldn't you re-task those engineers to projects that might be the next big thing? I know that in a certain light companies can hire more people, but the hiring pool isn't infinite and you can only grow your staff so quickly without things becoming chaotic (you want enough veteran staff members around to mentor new people who don't know what is going on with the giant systems that are created in such a large company).

To me, messaging feels like a product that everyone wants to solve because it's cool, but people haven't really figured out hoe to monetize it well. I think Facebook wants messaging to reinforce its ecosystem and fend off rivals more than anything. Apple really likes iMessage because consumers seem to be really into iMessage and it seems to create a positive feedback loop to get people to buy iPhones (I'm an iPhone user and I don't get what's so great about iMessage, but people are really passionate about it). What does Google get out of messaging? What does Signal get out of it? Signal and Telegram have both been looking for business models and they've looked into cryptocurrency, but I'd argue that neither has really found a business model.

The messaging apps that seem to have found business models are the ones that aren't general chat/text replacements, but community chat systems like Discord and Slack. Microsoft's efforts with Teams and the new Google Hangouts Chat/Meet enterprise Slack clone show that Microsoft and Google see a Slack competitor as where the money is in messaging. It's easy to get a company to give you $5-25/mo per user when they're spending $5,000-50,000 per month on that user already (not just salary, but benefits, office space, equipment, etc).

I think the real problem is that there's little money to be made in the old Gmail/GChat messaging. So, in comes some project manager that wants to make their bones solving a potentially large market in messaging and they don't have any wonderful ideas, but they're hoping that if they move enough things around and rebrand enough things they can cherry-pick some metrics and show how genius they are and why they deserve a big promotion. You don't get recognition and promotions for keeping a ship steady in calm seas. Combine that with a product that doesn't seem to meet expectations for return on engineering investment and why should Google keep investing in this?

If we look at the companies that have succeeded, they're not general messaging apps and they're usually aimed at taking advantage of an enterprise play - with a generous enough free tier that home people can play with it. I think Google didn't want to continue offering a general purpose messenger that didn't have a path to profitable growth. They also didn't want to abandon messaging. So they kept shaking things up trying to find product market fit - profitable fit, not just something that free users enjoyed without something in it for Google.

I miss the days of AIM, Yahoo, MSN, GChat. I have lost contact with a lot of people after all of those died off.

I miss ICQ.


> Apple really likes iMessage because consumers seem to be really into iMessage and it seems to create a positive feedback loop to get people to buy iPhones

Well, it would be a bit...naive not to have a phone that can send text messages. You gotta have something.

But it's interesting to note iMessages and Apple Pay work well with each other.

> Likewise, one of the great things about GChat was that it felt so un-monetized.

Maybe it felt un-monetized, but discovering reality that it’s not caused me to dump almost all Google products immediately.

When chatting with my friend I introduced him to several new concepts and products over the course of a conversation. We found that immediately after discussing said product, he would get advertisements for said product on Instagram.

I know when things are free, you are the product, but that was way too efficiently creepy.

Having talked about similar questions with friends who work/worked at Google, you need to first ask "How do people get promoted at Google?" The answer to that (by launching new things that get abandoned soon after rather than improving/fixing existing things) answers your question and many others like it.

Everyone at Google says this. It’s not true. Of course it contributes to the problem, but trust me a broken messaging strategy doesn’t naturally arise from Software Engineers trying to get incremental promotions.

It comes from two parts of google that are totally broken and don’t know it:

1) Product Management 2) Legal

The PMs are running from meeting to meeting trying to please execs and not doing anything that looks like sophisticated product development. Each team has their own broken process and crappy dashboards. I can’t even describe how irrational and broken the process for making product decisions is.

Then there are the lawyers. If you even think about doing something interesting or original they will say No and that’s the end of that. They’re shockingly risk averse. Even if every single competitor is doing a thing, you almost definitely can’t do that thing at Google. My team was BARELY allowed to know how many users we had! And we certainly couldn’t know anything about them. Because Legal.

There is a Village Global podcast episode where Eric Schmidt is asked this question [1]. He basically says that leadership did not "get" messaging platforms. I think of this as similar to how RIM/blackberry did not "get" the iphone. Nor did Steve Ballmer. It's equivalent in screwup magnitude to Microsoft not getting mobile. This requires massive leadership oversight.

Now, having worked at Google during these times (including the Allo launch where the team went around Google trying to rally the troops on why it was going to work), I can say that the PM structure at Google meant that a ground up led effort to build a competitive messaging platform just wouldn't happen. PMs basically rotate products every few years and nobody really has passion for the thing they are working on it. Its a very mechanical role oriented around features, roadmaps, growth bookkeeping etc. None of these things would yield a competitive messaging platform without a mandate from the top.

Now why was there no mandate from the top? Well, I think that leadership was confident that Google already had what it needed to build messaging into their dominant platforms. Between youtube and Android it felt like that if the competition in messaging were to grow in feature set, it would become more like these platforms (facebook turning into youtube with video, etc). Google could then add messaging and meet them at some point in the future. Schmidt also references youtube as a messaging/social platform in the podcast episode.

[1] https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/village-globals-ventur...

> Schmidt also references youtube as a messaging/social platform in the podcast episode.

I've heard that from other people at Google as well. But the fact that YouTube isn't a messaging/social app in any significant way is part of why I stick with it. I wonder if I'm not the only one.

It's true but not because they haven't tried. I remember they had some feature to share a video with your direct contacts/friends and open up a chat to talk about it.

I think this just goes to show it isn't as easy as they thought it was. I am sure Microsoft leadership thought it would be easy to turn a dominant consumer computing platform (windows) into a dominant mobile platform. I mean it is true that we are seeing a convergence to some degree with ios/ipad/macos. The thing is it doesn't happen as fast as needed for the competition to captialize on it. Facebook might eventually look like youtube. However, by the time it happens there will nothing left for youtube to gain. The market will be cooked.

i am conflating social network and messaging platform here which are too distinct things. Just trying to make a point about how easy it is to have irrational confidence in using the thing your successful in to gain success somewhere adjacent.

If youtube did start growing the messaging/social features you like, how would you remove yourself from it? thats where the videos are.

If they were intrusive, I'd just stop using it. The internet is full to the brim of videos from other platforms. YouTube isn't the only game in town. I use it mostly because it's convenient. If it became much less convenient (and, honestly, they've made a number of "enhancements" lately that have made it a bit less convenient), the cost/benefit ratio would no longer be favorable.

Isn’t it? Vaguely I hear of Vimeo being used for art videos but I kind of got the sense that the network effect and technology at Youtube was very strong. Where else do people go to watch videos? Where else can you host a live stream?

You can host videos on demand or live streams at Mux.com as well.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a community engineer at Mux.)

A lot of the respectable creators are transitioning to other platforms like Nebula or Curiosity Channel. Or at least that's my impression, I'm seriously considering joining, as the only thing that is on youtube that I consume now is the equivalent of trash TV (livestream VODs, which can be consumed much more efficiently in their home platform).

Which current (or recently released) things have a mandate from the top at Google at the moment ?

Cloud. GCP must compete on the same level as AWS and Azure. You can reverse engineer this by looking at the knobs "the top" has to make something happen. Staffing, money, acquisitions, etc.

So, it's B2b? No B2C or things like Gmail anymore? All I can think of rn is stadia.

Google has won consumer. Adding another consumer app doesn't really change the equation. Google Cloud as a product needs to compete in the market and not die or get sold off. This is a massive growth vector for the company. The main reason it is a different class of product. Paying for usage vs. ads.

Isn’t the second point an argument against fragmentation? Google had an integrated messaging platform, they’ve now abandoned it for multiple platforms. Where was Legal saying no to these new endeavors?

I wish we could rewind most of the web at least ten years. Everything was better then — I enjoyed Gmail, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, etc.

This is interesting. As a non-Google PM, whenever I face legal or compliance-related pushback on what I think are fair uses of data and reasonable risks, I think to myself, There is no way I’d be facing this constraint at <big company>! But perhaps that’s been a bad assumption.

Bad assumption. I worked for Snap and anything that goes out has to be reviewed and signed off by legal. Don’t even get me started on looking at data. For some data requests, Directors had to be involved and I had to justify to them to give me access for couple hours to some piece of data.

I also worked for FB and it’s not as strict as Snap but similar.

If the big company has a cash cow, legal does everything to protect the cow.

If the big company is hurting, legal works to find ways to justify everything and anything.

Here are comments from a former Google VP about legal concerns during Hangouts engineering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2mD7_nGPA4&t=652s

this >> " trying to please execs"

This is a meme. Yes, you need to change something about the state of the world but that change absolutely does not need to be launching a product. I work in the Core organization, which builds tooling for the rest of the company. My org within that has among the highest promotion rates (even to high levels) in the company and the primary thing we focus on is the sort of grungy "keep everything functioning" work that everybody says is anathema to promotions.

It is no secret that Google's product strategy is a mess. But I'm not convinced this is caused by the promo process. For communications strategy I think it is instead the following:

1. Messy code stacks make surviving tool deprecation a problem.

2. Google seems to be bad at staffing for proactive protection against maintenance work. If a product is working, staffing dwindles to match the maintenance load. But if suddenly a huge mandate comes along like a stack switch, it is not easy to get the heads you need to handle that spike in maintenance. Instead, the product gets triaged or dies.

3. It is really hard to push past 1B users of anything, and growing populations outside of the US and Europe are not desktop focuses, encouraging a "mobile first" solution that leaves desktop integration in the dust.

I'd suggest a 4th reason: Google has so much money and so many high-traffic properties that it can keep a poorly designed or unpolished product going for years, more than long enough for the original people who designed and built it to move on/up inside the company. Google will just push the product on the front page of some existing property to bump traffic, or get creators/developers to use it in hopes of boosting their existing search rankings, or give away the product for free. Every company would try to do these things but Google has a big advantage.

This allows Google to be lazy about product-market fit and avoid asking the hard questions like "is this thing really better than the alternative" and "what's the ROI for people who adopt this".

I worked on what I'd consider a failed product, and there was no explicit acknowledgement of that fact ever, we just waited 3 years and quietly turned it off. A more drawn-out version of the same thing happened with Google Plus. There was never anything like a "product postmortem".

How many PMs does Core have compared to other PAs?

The problem isn’t really with SWEs but with the entire incentive structure of PMs and the product management chain.

They in turn are able to get more SWE headcount for these unfruitful ventures and end up failing upwards.

Core seems to have fewer PMs but we have similar problems with triaged products due to lack of heads. The PMs we do have also struggle with getting heads just as much as the SWEs do.

At the very least, I think it is clear that Google’s product failings are not just a result of the promo system.

And there's never another employee saying: wait a second, that's not a good idea ...?

If many managers are onboard with an idea, one engineer saying "no" doesn't have much weight. Also, if you keep saying "no" to things, you might be perceived as "negative" and it might come up in performance reviews. And it's often difficult to predict if an idea will work or not - a lot of it comes down to execution and future politics.

So, as an engineer, it's probably better to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else, and try to get a promotion from it. It's stupid, but it's how it works. You will not progress within a company by saying "no", even if you are right and it stops a bad project.

(I've never worked for google, but did work in a large software corporation)

> (I've never worked for google, but did work in a large software corporation)

I wouldn't work for Google, but have worked at a couple of very large software companies and this echoes my experiences with them.

It's one of the reasons that I prefer not working for large software companies -- people there tend to be more concerned with their own career than the products they work on.

As per my comment below, it's not just stagnation - I was ok with where they were 5 years ago - it's that they've made an active effort to degrade the experience. Instead of clicking once in Gmail to start a video call, there is now some janky system where it starts a 'meet' and sends my mom an email asking her to join it. An email! When both of us are sitting there with Gmail open.

> "And there's never another employee saying: wait a second, that's not a good idea ...?"

In any engineering organization, one can find people saying "wait a second, that's not a good idea" to pretty much anything.

And in many of them, it would be a good idea for someone to listen.

Which seems to be a reasonable human decision -- do you want to be the person that blocked your colleague from getting a promotion?

That would require you to pretend that Google listens to devs more than the MBAs they work for. Nothing says "market expertise" like having a sheet of paper that proves you once completed a class project to write a business plan.


I think it's - corporate ADHD. Managers whose project succeed are rewarded away, and the project flounders, until another bright young thing starts again... from scratch because ego

- Google is all about algorithms not users, and messaging is mostly about listening to users and iterating. Google has thrown away... 5 installed bases of users ?

- OEM politics: Google must constantly negotiate what is theirs and what is the OEMs'. OEMs want as much as they can, and that means messaging. It took iMessage becoming such a forte on Apple's side for OEMs to back off on Messaging and allow a single Android platform.

- ditto carriers.

- Apple is a spoilsport. Whatever Google do, on iOS it'll never be default, nor even as integrated as, iMessage. Knowing you won't really have access to the juiciest 50% of the US market is a bummer, even if you still can reach 80% globally.

Who cares anyway ? Android allows one to use whichever app as default, just pick one. I actually removed Messages because it's idiotic and won't display a full text in the Notification, hence cuts off credit card confirmation codes, hence prevents me from buying anything from my phone. Idiots.

I think this was the missed opportunity for Google+. If I recall correctly, when Google launched Google+, everyone we knew and wanted to communicate with was there. They had all the communication infrastructure, and even built it into the app with messaging and hangouts. But it was just mixed in with all the stuff you could do very well on facebook, and that everyone was doing on facebook.

They were on to a good trend with circles, and that was a great differentiator from facebook, but they couldn't really tell us why we should use Google+.

If they had focused down onto a niche in communication, I think they may have been able to crack the code. They would have been able to say "google+ is where everyone you know is, your friends, collegues, and family, it's the place where you can communicate with these groups independently."

Unfortunately, they tried to be all things to everyone, and ended up being nothing to nobody.

Disclosure: I used to work for Google.

The chat and video call are in the same place again (both on the web and on mobile). The little TV symbol in Chat, invites someone to a video call.

I personally don't love the WeChat-style "make the GMail app into your all in one comms app", but I get that some people do.

The last part is that SMS and phone calls were in a separate universe and mostly focused on Android.

Roughly at the scale of any mega company, it isn't one company: it's several that have the same funding and ease of transfer (people, resources, etc.) but not necessarily coordination. To wit, there are multiple "CEOs" (YouTube, Cloud, etc.) so I really do encourage folks to think of "Google" as like a dozen companies (Search/Ads, YouTube, Cloud, Geo, ...).

The truth is, other than search engine advertising, google doesn't know how to make money.

Close, but not quite. The only thing Google knows how to do is make dirt-cheap large-scale computers and hire people. Then they let the people do whatever they want with the giant cloud, because the marginal cost is nothing.

So, the reason that gchat etc keep appearing and disappearing is because there never was a plan for it in the first place. One or a few engineers just threw it together at some point and there it was. Nobody truly owned it, it wasn't strategic. The churn is just a superficial symptom of the bottom-up product management style.

There are tons of Google products and features that were thrown together by individuals or pairs of people over a weekend and then subsequently got launched to the public. That this is possible is pretty neat, but that the products might not be durable is a downside.

> There are tons of Google products and features that were thrown together by individuals or pairs of people over a weekend and then subsequently got launched to the public.

Do you have concrete examples?

I can think of two right of the top of my head, that were monograph side projects that got launched: Google Keep, and the comment system of Google Docs, which you can think of as maybe another chat system or social network.

Remember Orkut?

‘ because the marginal cost is nothing.’ Who pays the utility bills?

Once the machine is running and the CPUs are in C0 the marginal cost of scheduling some less-important thread into the otherwise-idle cycles between active bursts of your main service threads is literally zero. Even if you have to wake a core from C1 to run the random thread, the marginal cost is still very close to zero.

Even an idle computer consumes power. How could it be literally zero? As it could have been shut off otherwise.

You can't shut it off because your core business product needs to run 50ms from now.

The core business product that must share a CPU with a third party and can’t be moved? Is there any real world example of that?

Nobody mentioned a "can't be moved" constraint.

Lots of businesses have multiple services/virtual servers running on a single host. Also VPS, shared hosting, seedboxes. Google/Amazon are experts at it.

It's not just Search, YouTube has very good earnings too. But yes, almost all ads, at really fucking good margins.

They did not build YouTube by their knowledge, they acquired competition company. They had Google videos back at that time.

Pretty much all innovation large companies do is through acquisition. It’s much faster and risk-free than doing it yourself, from scratch.

They came up with Google Glass and Google Wave by themselves :)

> How did it come to pass that they took an easy, integrated system and mangled it so badly?

I think each of these things were part of gmail at different times.

Google talk (their original chat that competed with Yahoo messenger) was and sorta still is there even though the talk product is something else now.

Google voice was required for SMS. It sorta worked from gmail, for a while.

Then they tried to merge all the things into hangouts and it was kind of really nice for a few months...

Then they tried Duo, Allo, Hangouts, and Google Chat (which is a slack work-a-likiesh thing) and I quite keeping track :-)

For a while, it worked really well. I lived in Italy and had a Google Voice number from Oregon, and I could just make US calls for free from within Gmail and it didn't just work ok, it was pretty good. I could also place video calls to people who were contacts right there in Gmail with one click, and it worked well too.

It's not that their system has stagnated - they've actively made it much worse and more difficult to use.

Google Voice was not required for SMS from gmail. You used to just be able to "chat" with any phone number from within the gmail web frontend. It cost a dime, but your dime was refunded if the other party responded, as an anti-spam measure.

It was also formerly possible to make a voice call to any phone from the gmail web frontend, no Google Voice account required. Now you need Google Voice to do this (not Google Fi!).

I believe the reason is that there are incentives internally to create new products rather than maintaining existing ones.

I can't understand why they ditched XMPP for corporative Google accounts. Our uni uses Google services but for their stupid chat I have to keep a Hangouts tab opened because most XMPP clients won't work with it.

While I don't know, I have a guess: Google loves building infrastructure, and they're pretty good at it. XMPP wasn't build in-house, and writing a replacement protocol was something Google could do.

What Google absolutely suck at is UI and native applications (at least on the desktop). It's also why their products keep failing. Seriously how hard would it be to build native clients or open the protocol and have it integrated into libpurple. I find it extremely hard to comprehend why Google don't just hire five of the worlds best macOS developer, five Windows developers and five for Linux/BSD and just let them build fantastic clients that integrates into each platform and provide the very best chat experience.

Everybody I know moved on from XMPP years ago. Google and Facebook dropping their support was indeed big part of it. But all in all centralised protocols have proven to be easier, more stable and simply better. Want to roll out a new feature? No need to sit down with a committee for years or wait for all 3rd party clients to keep up: you just implement the feature yourself.

Wait... what was the question?

> But all in all centralised protocols have proven to be easier, more stable and simply better.

Show me a centralised protocol that is better at interoperability between various services?

Given that as of today xmpp practically doesn't interoperate with anything, well...

There are at least hundreds of implementations of XMPP that are interoperable (at 5-6 actively developed server implementations, many more libraries and many client applications). There are at least hundreds of thousands deployed XMPP services.

In addition XMPP can be linked with other protocols/networks via bridges/gateways. Some examples:

- Spectrum: XMPP gateway project based on libpurple (support for many protocols): https://spectrum.im/

- WhatsApp bridge: https://git.eta.st/eta/whatsxmpp

- Telegram bridge: https://github.com/codingteam/emulsion

- Signal bridge: https://gitlab.com/nicocool84/slidge/ (replacement of https://gitlab.com/nicocool84/spectrum2_signald/ )

Given such a diverse ecosystem of open-source and proprietary implementations, I'd say XMPP is one of the best examples of widespread protocol interoperability that there is.

Good for them, but I can't talk to Gmail or Facebook users on any of them, which is the point. I'm not being flippant here, among the other things that Googlebook does is acquire users. Where number of users isn't a feature of the protocol, it's irellevant, but where that's a feature of why I would want to use a given protocol, it's the single most important thing out there. And XMPP fails miserably at that. Which is why open protocols don't work in practice. I love the theory that they would, and morn the days of Adium on OS X. But unless Facebook wants to build the bridge of XMPP to Facebook Messenger, the time I would spend working on getting XMPP setup is better spent elsewhere.

What do you mean, 'xmpp practically doesn't interoperate with anything'?!

Dozens of thousands of xmpp servers interoperate and deliver messages to each other. Or do you expect it to interoperate with Telegram? What next would you expect, UDP <--> ICMP interoperability?

There are in fact transports for Telegram on the XMPP network.



I don't consider transports as a kind of interoperability. From Telegram's point of view it's just 2 telegram accounts talking to each other. Wherever else this data is sent is not that important.

Moreover, I came to a conclusion that reliance on transports reinforces the network effect of external services and weakens XMPP's network effect. Do not use them.

IIRC they were pretty up-front about why they dropped XMPP - most of the clients connecting over XMPP were spammers, and there were few enough legitimate users connecting over third-party clients that it made more sense to drop XMPP support than build spam-blocking solutions.

Because at that time WhatsApp rose to huge popularity, was bought by Facebook and all of a sudden Google wanted their own walled garden clone.

It's just not messaging / video / hangouts, Google "botched" their Pay app too:


I wouldn't say botched for a single misfeature. It's pretty popular where I live, and I heard it's super convenient to do everything from phone recharge and electricity bill to train bookings. Whereas nobody talks about Google's messaging apps.

I've always wondered why they didn't just clone Apple Messages? Instead, they've done this seemingly random walk though the space and accomplished very little. Is it because Apple supports Messages through hardware sales and Google requires an advertising model?

And things like non-encrypted RCS seems downright negligent. I don't know how anybody at Google working on this stuff can be proud of what they do. From the outside, it's a mess and I'd be surprised if internally things look much better.

Are you sure you don't have Meet and Chat turned off within Gmail? If I go to Setting -> Chat and Meet within Gmail, I can have chats within Gmail. Meet still does send an invite/give me a link to copy, but I can paste into the chat and away we go in a new tab. (Former Googler)

Presumably they make more money with the user-hostile version and the user isn't paying so...

The real question is what newer products have managed to stick around at Google?

Gmail has. Knock on the wood.

Actually it hasn't. Ever get annoyed whether your email is in primary, updates, promotions or social.

Previously I had rules, almost all marketing went to labels or trash. Is it just me or have the rules become inconsistent?

I think I might be in the minority.I never use Gmail (GSuite, at work) via the browser, but I still use Gmail, it's just via IMAP or "native" Gmail integration.

I was never blown away by the user interface, but many rely on the gmail interface to manage their emails effectively.

Me too. I have one account that I use for my fiction/poetry submissions that I'll log into via the web interface when I get a response because Apple Mail doesn't have a way to be able to apply multiple tags to a message and I tag each response with the journal, the submission and whether it's a rejection or acceptance (plus a star if there's specific feedback). Other than that, all my mail access is through Apple Mail either on my Mac or on my phone.

I don't use GMail for my personal use, but my work used GMail, and that's what I did with that. Google's actual interface is not one that I enjoy.

Later, we switched to O365 and so use Microsoft for email. I still use IMAP for that, because the Outlook interface is not one that I enjoy.

You can disable the categories if you care.

See it is another symptom of the bottom-up product strategy. Categorization was a key feature of Inbox (by Gmail (by Apps (by Google (by Alphabet)))). After they killed Inbox they wrecked the categorization bundling, too.

It all went downhill once they shuttered Google Reader

I really miss G Talk, it was such a simple & light app and it just worked.

But I think the reason why Google didn't keep it is because there is no way to insert ads into it.

This is the main part about Google that we have to understand - Google is an ads distribution company. Like a billboard company or the company that plasters ads on bus stands & public benches. Any product they have will have a place to serve ads.

Serving ads in Gmail was a bad idea, but they have a nice user base. So, now they are offering it as a service that you pay for. I hope they come back to that.

Your google id needs to be used as an id instead of relying on mobile phone numbers.

I hope they bring back G Talk.

The issue with meet is the hassle of sharing the code with everyone. They should just have the option of a friends list.

The only really good service I like from google is MAPS

reminds me of Google Wave

The experience to setup and use was so confusing

It wasn't, really. You had a Gmail account, and you could call/chat/sms/video call your contacts from within it.

I think part of the motivation is to provide standalone apps for people that don't have gmail accounts because they're using hotmail/yahoo/some overseas equivalent.

Like you say, the old experience was great if you use gmail. Now the new split out messages thing is annoying for gmail users, but not tied to a google account. I think their strategy is to break things up into individual lowest common denominator services (like whatsapp), instead of having something that is pretty good at several things, but not the dominant product for any of them.

But I can't think of a single messaging application google has created that doesn't require a google account to use.

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