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A decade and a half of instability: The story of Google’s messaging apps



Take the Google Messaging Quiz!  Can you name all the icons?
Enlarge / Take the Google Messaging Quiz! Can you name all the icons?

Ron Amadeo

Google Talk, Google’s first ever instant messaging platform, was launched on August 24, 2005. This company has been in the messaging business for 1

6 years, which means that Google has been making messaging clients longer than any of its competitors have been. But thanks to a decade and a half of almost constant strategy changes, competing product launches and internal sabotage, you can not say that Google has a dominant or even stable instant messaging platform today.

Google’s 16 years of messenger wheel spinning have allowed products from more focused companies to pass by. Flaut, almost all of these products are much younger than Google’s messaging efforts. Think of competitors like WhatsApp (12 years old), Facebook Messenger (nine years old), iMessage (nine years old) and Slack (eight years old) – Google Talk even had video chat four years before Zoom was a thing.

At the moment, you’ll probably rank Google’s offerings behind every other high-tech competitor. Lack of any kind of top-down messaging management at Google has led to a decade and a half of messaging purgatory, with Google both unable to leave the site completely and unable to commit to a single product. While companies like Facebook and Salesforce are investing tens of billions of dollars in a lone messaging app, it seems that Google is only content to spin up a myriad of underfunded, unstable side projects led by job-jumping project managers. There have been periods when Google cards produced a good messaging solution, but the constant closures, focus shifts and sabotage of established products have stopped Google from transporting much of these user bases – or the user will – until today.

Because no single company has ever failed at something so bad, so long with so many different products (and because barely a month has passed since the launch of Google Chat), it’s time to outline the history of Google Messaging. Prepare, dear readers, for a non-stop roller coaster ride with new product launches, neglected established products, unexpected closures and legions of confused, frustrated and exiled users.

Table of contents

  • Google Talk (2005) – Google’s first chat service, built on open protocols

  • Google Talk ran the entire Android notification system

  • GTalk’s slow death

  • Google Voice (2009) – SMS and phone calls get a dose of internet

  • Google Wave (2009) – A future e-mail killer

  • No one knew what Wave was for or how to use it

  • Google Buzz (2010) -The social network without consent

  • Slide’s Disco (2011) – An independent app escapes Googleplex

  • Google+ Era (2011) – Google’s Social Panic

  • Google+ Hangouts Video Chat – The first Hangouts

  • Google+ Huddle / Messenger – I guess we should have some sort of DM feature

  • A competitor shows up – iMessage has joined the chat

  • Another competitor – WhatsApp is now worth $ 22 billion

  • Google Docs Editor Chat (2013) – Just like Gmail chat, but not integrated with anything

  • Google Hangouts (2013) – Google’s largest messaging service

  • Death to Hangouts, consistent Google messaging and hope

  • Google Spaces (2016) – A messaging app for participants in Google I / O 2016

  • Google Allo (2016) -Google’s WhatsApp clone on arrival

  • The Legend of Allo: Google Assistant

  • Google Duo (2016) – A video app for … WhatsApp?

  • Google (Hangouts) Meet (2017) – Do not zoom

  • YouTube Messages (2017) – Yes, this was really a thing

  • Google (Hangouts) Chat (2018) – Part 1: Cloning Slack is actually a good idea

  • Google Maps Messages (2018) – Business messages, now with instability from Google

  • Google & RCS (2019) – So we found this dusty old messaging standard in a closet …

  • RCS is bad, and everyone who likes it should feel bad

  • Google Photo Messaging (2019) – You get a messaging feature! And you! And you!

  • Google Stadia Messages (2020) – Two great flavors that taste good together

  • Google Pay Messages (2021) – We actually learned nothing from Google Allo

  • Google Assistant Messages (2021) – Text and voice chat, for families?

  • Google Phone Messaging (2021) – Doesn’t this go a little too far?

  • Google Chat, Part 2 (2021) – Don’t wait, this is actually a consumer app now!

  • Is anyone in charge of Google?


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