Google Hangouts received a lot of face-time during this year’s Google I/O keynote. The company announced that it was consolidating most of its messaging and chatting services into one powerful app, dubbed Hangouts. Whereas Hangouts originally was just the video chatting portion of Google+, the company transformed it into a powerful tool for communicating in a variety of ways, including text and video. Google had been a longtime supporter of the open XMPP messaging protocol, but with the new Hangouts app, the company has slowly been reducing its support for it, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation noticed. On Tuesday, Google confirmed that it is in fact ceasing support for the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).
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The XMPP protocol is used to enable users from one Internet communication service to be able to talk to people on other services. This allowed for people who, for instance, used AOL Instant Messenger to talk to people using Google Talk. But, Google says that the openness of the XMPP protocol led to bad user experiences due to spam attacks and security concerns. It also limited the company in the forms of communication they could support in the new Hangouts service.
“The openness of [Google] Talk led to bad user experiences like spam attacks, and limited us in terms of supporting the various forms of communication that we’re now able to achieve with Hangouts,” a company spokesperson explained.
Right now, this means that users will not be able to exchange text messages within the Hangouts app. In the long run, however, we can surely expect Google to replace the XMPP standard with something more secure, and most likely, designed by them. It’s also likely that Google will implement SMS messaging through their own servers, a feature that many people would really appreciate. Google could also add many newer and more efficient features to the Hangouts app now that they aren’t relying on an open protocol. For example, they could use their new “watermark” system in place of read receipts, which allows the sender to see exactly what the other members of the conversation are typing in real-time.
Do you think Hangouts will play a big role in the future of communication via mobile devices? Let us know down in the comments!