It’s fair to say that Google has been fairly fragmented in the messaging space before Google I/O 2013. Google+ Messenger, GTalk, GChat, Google Voice and Google Hangouts were just some of the company’s messaging/communications products and even Vic Gundotra, Google’s VP of Engineering admitted at the Google I/O keynote that it wasn’t ideal. Wasn’t ideal was an understatement. It was horrible. If you started a chat with someone in gmail chat, there’s no way to continue the same chat on my mobile.
So it was no surprise that Google had to rethink their messaging strategy from a scratch and the resulting product is Google Hangouts. It fixes most but not all of the issues. Instead of different versions of chat, video chat and calling across Google products, Hangouts gives me one consistent way to message people that has a…… you guessed it, a Google account.
Google is definitely moving towards the right direction with messaging but when Vic Gundotra was lamenting that messaging should be cross platform, ubiquitous and easy, everything goes out of the window if I didn’t have a Google account.
It’s not easy to try and convince my mother who has been using Yahoo mail for ages to switch to Gmail so I can message her with Hangouts. My family and friends are mostly iPhone users and Messages (iMessages is a protocol, not the app) is seamless, works with your phone number, integrates with SMS and if you have a Mac, you can message someone on their iPhones. But of course, the huge downside to Apple’s Messages is it’s locked down to Apple’s ecosystem.
In a sense, even Facebook Chat is a lot better than Hangouts when it comes to ubiquity. People that I (almost) care about are on Facebook and it’s easier to get them to respond to messages. I tried getting a few friends to respond to my Hangouts invites or groups chats and I get no responses. Friends that have used Android mobiles for years still prefer texting, Whatsapp and Facebook Chat.
Google has already committed to adding SMS integration and voice calling to Hangouts so things will certainly get better. Don’t get me wrong, the group video chat feature is very cool. I can see myself using that in many ways, just not with many friends.
PS: It’s just really with Jason Teen and no one else.