This week, Google has launched two new instant message applications: Google Allo and Google Spaces. Both of these applications do to a point compete with Google's existing instant message application, Hangouts, but also offer a different take on things. One might think that Google Hangouts will be put into retirement but Google has said that it will continue to run this as a standalone application and will continue to add new features, although it won't be acquiring Allo's chatbot feature any time soon. Why would Google release and maintain three messenger services? Or perhaps we should ask why Google is keeping Hangouts under development?
The answer to this question is because these three applications fit a different group of people, and because many customers use more than one messenger service on their devices. Allo, which is linked to our phone number rather than to our Gmail account, is designed to be a smart, fun interactive instant messenger application. The service will learn how and what the user sends to contacts – it'll understand if you usually write, "hahaha" or "lol." The more we use Allo, the smarter it will get – and it also includes Google's image recognition and assistant technologies too, which means we are more connected with information that we are chatting about. Google has designed Allo to streamline the process of communicating with people and means it's less likely we need to leave the application to find something out, before jumping back into it to continue the conversation. It could sound incredibly creepy… or a very clever, personal application of technology. Allo is, of course, designed to help us use Google's services because this is how Google derives information about people and their habits.
Google Spaces has some similar technologies but here the service is based around creating a small group or space to chat and hangout with like-minded people, to find and share articles, videos and images without leaving the application as the Google Search, YouTube and Chrome browser are all built into the Spaces application.
Hangouts can do the group chat thing and of course it also does the whole communications thing. It also offers voice and video calling, but it doesn't include the tight integration between Google's other services. So what does it offer? As it happens it offers a lot… Hangouts works across platforms, keeping messages synchronised between different computers. It's a part of Google Apps for Work, where business users want to switch seamlessly from smartphone to tablet to desktop to laptop and back again during their working day, and may not always want to be reaching for their smartphone to continue an Allo conversation. Google may add in some of the new features from Allo and Spaces into Hangouts, such as the integrated Google Services side of things, but for the time being this does not appear to be a priority. Besides, for people used to using Google Hangouts for work, trying Google Allo for social reasons is probably going to be an easy decision. When this happens, Google may move some of Allo's clever technologies into Hangouts.