Google and messaging services. Messaging services and Google. It’s been a hot mess and we all know it at this point, right? There’s no need to attempt to make any real sense out of the nonsense that has been Google’s messaging ‘strategy’. Painfully, that lack of vision over the years has resulted in some truly fine products being killed off for no good reason and multiple other questionable moves along the way. How many times have we been warned of the impending death of Hangouts, only to see it continue limping along without getting the attention it actually deserves?
In the midst of all this chaos, Google has done a few things that make me a bit more hopeful about the future of its messaging plan. First, it ditched everything and went all-in on RCS via the Google Messages app. While that hasn’t been perfect, they did get RCS out to most users that have the app installed and new features continue to get added to the service. The primary problem is the fact that so few people have the app or an RCS-ready app they are actually using. Far more people have a Google account and thus, Google Hangouts is still around because – surprise – logging in with a Google account makes apps quite a bit more universal and easy to deploy.
In a similar way, Google has kept a few irons in the fire around video calls as well. At one point, you could make a video call in Hangouts (consumer and G Suite versions) along with Google Hangouts Meet (only G Suite) and Google Duo. Eventually for G Suite, Hangouts Meet was the only option until it was re-branded Google Meet not long ago. Consumers were left with Hangouts video calls and Duo calls, but then had Google Meet join the bunch for free as the pandemic has raged on. While G Suite users keep things simple with Google Meet, consumers are left with the mess of Hangout, Meet, and Duo when they want to make a video call. It’s a bit confusing to say the least.
Clean up is on the way
You may not know the name Javier Soltero, but you should. Google hired him and placed him in charge of all the messaging apps Google has made a bit of a mess of in the past. Under his umbrella are Google Meet, Google Chat, Messages, Duo, and the Google Phone app. Brought on in October to help unify all of these things, you can already see the impact Soltero has had. Remember the new, unified Gmail for G Suite users that we just recently talked about? Moves like this will clearly be the mark Soltero will leave on Google.
From the folks over at 9to5 Google, it seems the next big move will be the union of Duo and Meet if sources are to be believed. This transition will reportedly be a couple years in the making and we’ll not see Duo magically disappear in the near future: but change is coming. There are clearly functions of Duo that Meet would need to adopt, such as end-to-end encryption, contacting users via phone number alone, and some of the 3D AR effects Duo users enjoy today.
There’s also the off chance that as this evolves, we could see a similar offering to what the G Suite Gmail experience is shaping up to be: a more unified place for Google-centered messages. In that setup, Gmail flows right into Meet right into…Chat? Well, for G Suite folks, that is what is going on. Perhaps down the road, this new, more unified Google will also bring Google Chat around to its standard users as well, giving Google a single app/service for email, one for messages, one for video, and one for text/sms/mms/RCS. Getting Chat over to consumers may be a step too far, but they’ve left Hangouts up and running after multiple death threats, so perhaps a transition over to Chat wouldn’t be that far-fetched.
Either way, though I’m a big fan of Duo, I’m a bigger fan of Google getting their messaging platforms in order and in alignment. There shouldn’t be different services for G Suite and standard users and there shouldn’t be two or three services that essentially do the exact same thing. In my ideal world, Google Meet, Google Chat, and Gmail would be the only messaging apps I use and Chat would have all the necessary bits to handle MMS/SMS/RCS baked in. No one really knows how all this will eventually shake out in the end, but any move towards a simpler, more-refined messaging strategy from Google is welcome in my book, even if it means killing off a great service like Duo.