22 votes

A decade and a half of instability: The history of Google messaging apps

13 comments

  1. [9]
    Akir
    Link
    The most frustrating thing about this is that absolutely none of this was ever necessary. Heck, Google Talk was based on XMPP - The X stands for extensible! Google had basically decided that they...

    The most frustrating thing about this is that absolutely none of this was ever necessary. Heck, Google Talk was based on XMPP - The X stands for extensible! Google had basically decided that they were going to have their engineers and coders rewrite the same basic functionality countless times for what appears to be zero benefit.

    As someone who used to buy Android phones exclusively, I actively avoided using Google's messaging services because as a result of them constantly killing them, nobody I knew could be reached using them. The only messaging service of theirs I have bothered with since is Google Voice, and that's the most basic SMS support you can get today (technically MMS), but at least I can actually communicate with people that way!

    In the meanwhile I now own an iPhone and Messages is so simple and nice and easy to use that I've mostly given up my Google Voice number as a throw-away number to give to businesses, and even though it's technically only on iPhone I can still communicate with everyone universally through it.

    14 votes
    1. [3]
      whbboyd
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      This drum gets banged repeatedly, but Google has designed their employee performance and evaluation structures to literally mandate this. People get promoted for building new things, not for...

      Google had basically decided that they were going to have their engineers and coders rewrite the same basic functionality countless times for what appears to be zero benefit.

      This drum gets banged repeatedly, but Google has designed their employee performance and evaluation structures to literally mandate this. People get promoted for building new things, not for maintaining or improving existing things. Until they fix this, Google can't have stable products (other than a small handful of golden geese with protection at the executive level, mostly consisting of search and email)—everything they make is guaranteed to be abandoned immediately after release and bitrot until it's canned.

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        onyxleopard
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        This is basically their version of throw shit at the wall and see what sticks, right? I don’t really know much about the culture at Google, but they have too many smart people there for this not...

        This is basically their version of throw shit at the wall and see what sticks, right? I don’t really know much about the culture at Google, but they have too many smart people there for this not to be intentional, right?

        2 votes
        1. timo
          Link Parent
          There is a difference between being smart in that you can build a messaging product (technically) and being smart that you can steer a company in a different direction (social, organization).

          There is a difference between being smart in that you can build a messaging product (technically) and being smart that you can steer a company in a different direction (social, organization).

          3 votes
    2. [5]
      vord
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I knew Google was on the wrong path when they abandoned Wave. It was a fantastic tool (also built on XMPP) when people could grok it. Which I guess was the problem. Google voice is utterly...

      I knew Google was on the wrong path when they abandoned Wave. It was a fantastic tool (also built on XMPP) when people could grok it. Which I guess was the problem.

      Google voice is utterly fantastic. I got one right at the beginning, and I'm still using it to this day. I would use the carrier-generated number as the throwaway as that got all the spam anyhow. I ported it to multiple phones (sometime simulaneously), could talk and text from my PC. It altered what I expect out of telecommunications infrastructure.

      The worst thing is I'm having more and more trouble using it for two-factor these days. Having a truely portable phone number, one I can use without a cell plan is probably the #1 reason I won't abandon Google entirely.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        Adys
        Link Parent
        I ended up building my own thing with Twilio. Costs me $1/mo per number I hold, + usage. I wanted to have that one place where I keep my numbers static (really own them), and be able to forward...

        Having a truely portable phone number, one I can use without a cell plan is probably the #1 reason I won't abandon Google entirely.

        I ended up building my own thing with Twilio. Costs me $1/mo per number I hold, + usage. I wanted to have that one place where I keep my numbers static (really own them), and be able to forward everything to my primary number instead.

        I'd say it was worth it but truthfully… fuck phones. I can't wait for phone numbers to die and be replaced by something better.

        9 votes
        1. vord
          Link Parent
          Generally no disagreement, however... I am worried about our ever-growing reliance on the internet and access-point reliant communication. At this point, if there is disaster that knocks out...

          I'd say it was worth it but truthfully… fuck phones. I can't wait for phone numbers to die and be replaced by something better.

          Generally no disagreement, however...

          I am worried about our ever-growing reliance on the internet and access-point reliant communication.

          At this point, if there is disaster that knocks out internet and mobile access....lots of people have 0 way of communicating. We've even seen how poorly cell networks hold up under disaster-level loads.

          Hell, removing the ability from phones from recieving AM/FM radio hinders that as well, by cutting off one of the easiest ways to recieve one-way info.

          Our best bet at this point seems to be walkie-talkies hoping to find a local HAM (amateur radio operators) to communicate with the outside world. And both are pretty rare for the general populous.

          2 votes
      2. DrStone
        Link Parent
        This is what I've run into as well. For example, my bank won't accept Google Voice as a mobile number capable of receiving SMS, so I can't use it for verification codes, which are required to...

        The worst thing is I'm having more and more trouble using it for two-factor these days.

        This is what I've run into as well. For example, my bank won't accept Google Voice as a mobile number capable of receiving SMS, so I can't use it for verification codes, which are required to authorize customer service actions over the phone. Thankfully, they do accept the requests through the bank's clunky web message portal after logging in, though response time much slower.

        6 votes
  2. Adys
    Link
    Ooof. I'll give it a read but that table of contents already summarizes things pretty well actually. Google's messaging story has been a constant, consistent display of utter incompetence. I have...

    Ooof.

    I'll give it a read but that table of contents already summarizes things pretty well actually. Google's messaging story has been a constant, consistent display of utter incompetence.

    I have nothing to add the article probably didn't already say…

    Leave it to Google to treat messaging the way Hogwarts treats Defense against the Dark Arts.

    7 votes
  3. hamstergeddon
    Link
    I'm dealing with this for the first time at my new job. They're on a Google stack and the chat situation is frustrating. Hangouts suggested I use Google Chat, so I tried to download it, but it's...

    I'm dealing with this for the first time at my new job. They're on a Google stack and the chat situation is frustrating. Hangouts suggested I use Google Chat, so I tried to download it, but it's just one of those crappy chrome apps. So I kept using it in the browser, but it never prompted me for notification permissions so I spent my first day missing messages. Had to manually grant it permissions via the browser. Then today my boss called me via hangouts and Chat told me I couldn't take the call there, that I had to switch over to hangouts for calls.

    And I don't know if this is organization-specific (I feel like it is), but I have to "discover" all my co-workers in order to chat with them. There is no master list of contacts in the company.

    Meanwhile MS Teams, which I used at my previous job, just handles everything all in a single, actual app. Calls, chats, calendar, it's all just there and pretty easy to use. I have my gripes with Teams (search is a freaking joke, for one), but I've been missing it this week.

    6 votes
  4. JXM
    Link
    It feels like out of all of their many chat services, Google Voice is the one that is the biggest waste of potential. I've had a Google Voice number for over a decade and I could absolutely see...

    It feels like out of all of their many chat services, Google Voice is the one that is the biggest waste of potential.

    I've had a Google Voice number for over a decade and I could absolutely see people using it as their primary written communication app if they kept it up to date.

    If it was regularly updated and had modern features, it could have easily taken on iMessage or WhatsApp. But instead, it took years for them to get MMS and group messages working. And they still haven't added RCS support.

    At it's heart, it just uses the simple SMS protocol...everyone has a phone number so even if you weren't a Google Voice user, you could still communicate with anyone. But if you had Google Voice or RCS, you could get more advanced features. Just like iMessage.

    4 votes
  5. guts
    (edited )
    Link
    Google certainly lost this war and not even the best Google astroturf would convince on using any of their services. Utterly mess and keep doing these mistakes over and over (hello Stadia). Still...

    Google certainly lost this war and not even the best Google astroturf would convince on using any of their services. Utterly mess and keep doing these mistakes over and over (hello Stadia). Still bitter of Google Reader.