Jun 29, 2022

A Brief, Messy History of Google's Messaging Products

This week, Google announced that Hangouts would be discontinued in late 2022 in favor of Google Chat and Google Meet. Although it was already in the works, the announcement persuaded me to go down the rabbit hole of Google’s Messaging products.

I was already aware of how notorious Google has been regarding planning and commitment, or lack thereof. The picture, however, turned out to be even more ridiculous than I anticipated.

Take a look:

  1. Google Talk (2005 - 2015): XMPP based chat client that was discontinued in 2015 in favor of Google Hangouts. Google Talk was also known as GChat, which isn’t the same Google Chat that is being promoted.
  2. Google Buzz (2010 - 2011): Google Buzz was a microblogging and messaging platform that lived inside Gmail. The product didn’t even last a year and a half before being discontinued in favor of Google+.
  3. Google+ Messenger (2011 - 2013): Google+ had a messenger feature that was discontinued in favor of Google Hangouts in 2013. The Google+ social network itself was shut down in 2019.
  4. Google Hangouts (2011-2022): Google Hangouts was launched as a group video service integrated into Google+. In 2013, it was announced that Google Hangouts would be a standalone product replacing Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, and Google+ Hangouts.
  5. Hangouts on Air (2012 - 2019): Despite having a similar name, Hangouts on Air was not related to Google Hangouts. It started as a part of Google+ as a way to broadcast a group video conversation, which later became a part of Youtube. It was discontinued in favor of Youtube Live in 2019.
  6. Google Allo (2016 - 2019): Allo was an instant messaging app with an AI-powered reply system. It was discontinued in 2019.
  7. Google Duo (2016 - 2022): Duo is a video mobile chat app that was launched with Allo. It is planned to be sunset in 2022, and eventually replaced by Google Meet. The lack of any strategy in decision-making is pretty apparent:

In August 2020, it was reported that Google was planning to eventually merge Google Duo with the business-oriented Google Meet. In December 2021 this objective had been dropped, but Duo continued to be available and updated. In June 2022, Google reversed course and announced that Duo would, in fact, be merged into Meet. The mobile app will be rebranded as “Google Meet”, while the original Meet app will eventually be deprecated.


  1. Google Spaces (2016 - 2017): Google Spaces was a mobile app that was intended as a competitor to Slack. It enabled users to create a “space” where they could invite their friends and share messages and other media. Astonishingly, it lasted barely a year before being discontinued.
  2. Google Currents (2019 - 2023): Google Currents was a software developed for internal enterprise communication. According to the official blog post, it’s being discontinued in favor of Spaces somewhere around 2023. What? Discontinued “Google Spaces”? No, a different Spaces, a feature of Google Chat. It was earlier called rooms and it’s a “central place where people can share files, assign tasks, and stay connected.”

What’s even more funny is the fact that Google had launched and discontinued a product also called Google Currents in 2013.

  1. Google Chat (2017 - ): Google Chat allows users to have direct messages, group conversations, and create spaces, where they can share files. It was earlier called “Hangouts Chat” before being renamed.
  2. Google Meet (2017 - ): Google Meet is a video-conferencing app that was initially launched as enterprise-friendly version of Hangouts. It was also called “Hangouts Meet” before it was rebranded.

In 2011, Google employee Steve Yegge wrote a blog post titled, “Steve Yegge Google Platform Rant.” The post was an instant sensation and highlighted one of the reasons why Google is obsessed with launching new products:

Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo).


Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product.


Our Google+ team took a look at the aftermarket and said, ‘Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let’s go contract someone to, um, write some games for us.’ Do you begin to see how incredibly wrong that thinking is now?

It seems a these product launches were driven by “me-too” thinking. The executives saw other successful products and tried to replicate their success instead of trying to understand the problem they were supposed to solve.

It looks now that Google’s current plan is to focus on the two apps: Chat and Meet. Will Google stick to it? Or will there be a new bandwagon Google will try to climb? We can only wait and watch.

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