business messaging app

Google is more clearly repositioning its Hangouts communications app and aiming it more squarely towards business. 

Hangouts Chat will integrate with a big upgrade to the Hangouts video chat service, now dubbed Hangouts Meet, and Hangouts Chat will now offer threaded messages, according to The Verge.

Google appears to be making Hangouts more like Slack, as well as head off moves by Facebook to make WhatsApp more appealing to business.

Messaging apps are everywhere. There’s probably too many of them. The average person probably uses at least half a dozen different ones in any given day. And we’re not including email in this, of course.

The most common instant messaging methods are:

  • the ones you send through your mobile phone – the texting;
  • WhatsApp – which became so popular it got bought by Facebook; and
  • that’s probably it as far as consumer or personal messaging services go, although we can’t claim this is a scientifically rigorous list.

In business, things are a bit more interesting. The choices – as in every area of software – are just bewildering. There’s just so many.

But the big ones are probably the ones owned by:

  • Microsoft, through its Skype for Business; and
  • Google, through its rather unhelpfully named Hangouts communications system.

The lack of clarity or definition in the above companies’ offerings probably contributed to the confusion about what’s what. Skype was best known as a video calling app, with a messaging part included. A few years ago, you could be forgiven for thinking that Microsoft Messenger was Earth’s only messaging app. Hangouts… well, it’s a weird name.

The technology of Hangouts is, as most things Google, quite impressive. The video part, the messaging, the integrations with YouTube and other apps, is all very good.

But the fundamental problem that these companies face is they have too many capabilities and end up integrating all of the capabilities into everything they do. As a user, it’s bewildering to be faced with too many choices. And by the time you’ve learned what some of the choices are, they’ve gone and changed something – the interface, the functionality, or whatever – and you’re again in your bewildered state.

WhatsApp tests business messaging app while Google makes Hangouts messaging more like Slack Click To Tweet

This megalomaniacal urge to become an all-powerful, all-things-to-all-people monopolistic megacorp is probably what let in smaller, specialist and more nimble players like Slack, which is probably the most popular messaging app on the market, if not the most widely used.

Slack’s unbeatable sales pitch – although it doesn’t use it much – is that it is the messaging app used by Nasa. Maybe Nasa uses loads of different apps, but being on the list is kudos enough.

The monolithic companies – such as Microsoft and Google – probably need to start making tough choices and leave out all but the most essential user interface features and functions, and not leave user to make those difficult choices every time they try and use their gigantically bloated apps, which could be said to be the equivalent of obnoxious bragging.

Just because you’re capable of integrating a million functions into your app doesn’t mean you should.

It could be argued that Apple became so successful because they made, and continue to make, tough choices at design and development stage – so we don’t have to. Apple could launch hundreds of different variations of each of their products.

But instead, they just offer three or four extremely expensive ones, leaving out probably tens of thousands probably even more expensive ones on the development room floor, as it were.


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