Google+, Inbox, And Now Hangouts: Google Really Needs To Get A Grip

Google needs to get a grip as it’s getting increasingly tiring using its products while under constant fear the company will get bored and just switch them off. While Google has never seemed able to maintain focus on any single idea for long enough (even Android itself is apparently under threat in spite of the vast majority of worldwide market share it holds), this year the company has gone a little too far by canning what is arguably some of its best and most popular services.

Inbox becomes Binbox

This all started back in September when Google announced it was closing its Inbox by Gmail service in favor of focusing on Gmail. That’s in spite of Inbox being a far superior product. Yes, some will argue that’s not the case, that they don’t like Inbox and Gmail is better. But they would be wrong. They simply don’t get Inbox. Because once you do, it just makes buttery smooth sense and you can ask anyone who uses Inbox religiously and they will tell you the same thing. Once you pass the learning curve and go all-in with Inbox, you don’t just get it, you become dependent on it. So now all of us Inbox-dependent emailers have to somehow try and bring ourselves back to Gmail - back to the past. And that’s not going to be an easy task for many of the heavy Inbox users as a number of us have already tried since the original Inbox closing announcement was made. Tried and failed, that is. Once again ending up back using Inbox in spite of knowing the writing is on the wall.

Google minus the +

Then in October came the news Google+ was shutting down. Granted, this is a bit more of a complicated issue due to the whole data breach thing which Google seems to have managed to gloss over without as much attention as it should have received - by immediately announcing the closure of the service. Rule number 1 in press relations: make the news what you want to say, not what others are saying. This is exactly what Google did by superseding the data breach news with the news the service was ending. Yes, outlets still covered the data breach but the angle nearly all coverage went with was along the lines of “Google Hangouts closing down because…” The closure was the news. A very smart move by Google that allowed the company to move on largely without having to deal with the issue or explain what it was doing to make sure it never happened again. But, the closure only benefited Google.

Yes, Google+ was not the hive of activity Google had hoped for, and yes many who don’t use it dismissed it immediately -- Inbox Syndrome -- but those who did use it, used it a lot. What’s more, they were very much tech-focused users with many viewing G+ as the ‘tech social media’ channel. Which, in reality, is ideal for a company like Google due to it effectively creating a captive audience who will actively and directly tune in to the very products and services Google wants to promote, helping Google to promote them more. Pixel, Nexus, Android TV, all of these had very active communities on G+ and now those communities are scrambling to find somewhere they can go to replicate the experience Google+ offered. And that's an important point to note as these users are obviously aware of Twitter, Facebook, and the rest. It’s just they don’t see the same value in those other social media channels as they did in G+. That’s a USP any service/company would kill for and Google simply threw it away like it was nothing. It wasn’t in Google’s favor anymore and these days that’s apparently enough.

Nowhere left to hangout

Fast-forward to now and it would seem that Hangouts is next on the chopping block following a new report which cites sources claiming 2019 will be the last full year you have with the messaging service. Again, some will argue that like G+, and to some degree Inbox, the writing has been on the wall for Hangouts for some time. And maybe they are right. But that does not mean the writing had to be on the wall. Google actively made efforts to reposition Hangouts as more of a business tool. Google actively decided to lessen support for the app and service in general. Google is reportedly choosing to end consumer support in 2020. These are all decisions Google has made intentionally, and in spite of Hangouts not quite suffering the same ‘user number issue’ as Google+ or Inbox.

Yes, Hangouts is probably not a hugely popular service when compared to some others, but by all accounts, it’s used a decent amount. Which is why the company isn’t shutting it down completely like it is Inbox and G+. It still sees value in the platform, and it still maintained value at the consumer level which makes it all the more disappointing if this latest news turns out to be true. As unlike the other closures announced in 2018, where Google could at least hide behind the low user numbers, this one represents a complete disregard for a service that is in use. And like G+, one that Google doesn’t really have a replacement to offer users. No, Allo.

What’s next?

At this point it doesn’t even matter what’s next. With Inbox, Google+ and Hangouts all expected to close within the next 12-18 months Google has taken away some of its best social-based services and in a fairly small amount of time. Yes, none of them were perfect, but they were what they were, and people used them. More importantly, it is highly likely that routine users of any of these services, also used the others as well. That’s sort of the way these things work and why Google has so often looked to integrate features from one into another as these services have a high cross-over threshold. So for those users who are more heavily invested in the full Google experience, they are now being exponentially punished by Google - and for doing nothing other than supporting its services. Good job!

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