Google Allo: The Latest In a Long Line of Messaging Failures

Photo: RapidEye (Getty Images)

Google has done it again. In an official announcement posted late Wednesday, the tech giant has officially given an end date for Allo. Don’t know what Allo is? You’re not alone. Google Allo premiered two years ago to replace Hangouts as the go-to way to sent text messages on Android. It had fancy predictive features via Google’s then-new Assistant. It had sticker packs for all those valuable millennial users. Most importantly, it had the full backing of the company.

In 2018, not only is Hangouts still kicking sans support (albeit in a transitional phase), but Google is throwing in the towel altogether. Android’s default Messages app (a third Google option running in tandem with Hangouts and Allo all this time) will get the love going forward. What happened? Well, if you’ve paid attention to Google’s app history on mobile, this latest development isn’t a surprise.

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Ever since the early days of Google’s expansion beyond search, they’ve looked for a messaging solution that pleased their userbase. There was Google Talk, the messaging service that grew out of Gmail and supported everything you threw at it. However, because it was built on legacy tech (to give you an idea, it had an app on BlackBerry) it wasn’t going to last forever. They tried Google Wave, a hybrid of IM, IRC, and message boards that became a cult hit during its short life. Google Buzz was a Twitter competitor that had visibility problems despite a great start. The same could be said of Google+, the company’s social networking ghost town that still limps on to this day.

Of course, part of the reason Google has had so much trouble getting phone messaging right is the failure of Google+. Hangouts, the best of their chat app contenders, grew out of a video chat application introduced with the social network. They merged that functionality with Huddles, a Google+ messaging app that gained no traction because it was based in Google+. In the beginning, you could also send text messages through Google Voice. That functionality merged into Hangouts at one point, and they’re now two apps again as of this writing.

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This is just a small sample of the confusing web of apps and services Google has weaved for its customers. We wouldn’t say that many things about Apple’s iOS platform are better than Google, but at least iMessage has been a constant application that users trust. Now, Hangouts will soon shift to a mostly business-focused service, Allo will be shutting down, and we’re back to just an unbranded “Messages.” At least Messages supports SMS from the get-go. Allo’s lack of support for this basic feature caused many users to ignore it entirely, and they added it far too late to save it.

Will Google Messages be the final pitstop for Google pursuing the messaging space on Android? At this point, it’s hard to definitely count them out. For now, you’ll just have to send text messages the old-fashioned way. Or just use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp like the rest of the world. One or the other.


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