Over the past week, a couple of reports had surfaced regarding two of Google's seven messaging apps – Allo and Hangouts. The reports stated that Google was planning to shut down both apps, though Allo was due to be shut down much sooner, with Hangouts not being shut down til sometime in 2020, according to the team's roadmap. After those reports hit the web, Google was forced to say something, and last night it put out a press release talking about its vision for its messaging apps. It is essentially taking out two of its seven messaging apps and will focus on the remaining five messaging apps – which is still a ton of messaging apps.
Currently Google has seven messaging apps – so much for, the one messaging app to rule them all. This includes Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet, Google Voice and Messages. Now Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet were supposed to replace Hangouts "classic" but so far it hasn't. In its press release, Google did say that it would continue to support Hangouts "classic" until it moves Hangouts Chat and Meet to all of its customers. Initially those two apps were only going to be available for its G Suite or enterprise customers. Google did not specifically say that it was shutting down Hangouts, but did say that it will support Hangouts users in the meantime, until the features from Chat and Meet are available to all users. Though there is no date as to when Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet will be available to all, so that might be in 2020, or it might be a bit further down the road.
When it comes to Allo, Google did specifically say that it is being shut down. The app will continue to work through March 2019, so around four months left before it is gone completely. Google has been moving all of Allo's features over to the Android Messages app that is pre-installed on every Android smartphone, including the ability to send GIFs, and much more. So it should come as no surprise that Google is looking to get rid of Allo, and it is being replaced by Android Messages, unsurprisingly. Google mentioned that it did learn a lot from Allo, during its two year stint. Including how machine learning and artificial intelligence (aka Google Assistant). Of course, this is something that Google always says when it is shutting down a product, that it "learned a lot" from it. Google said the same thing when it announced it was shutting down Google+, Inbox and YouTube Gaming – which all happened in the last few months.
Background: Google has always had trouble with its messaging ecosystem. It is always looking to make a messaging app that can take the place of all of these apps, but can never quite get there. Hangouts was announced back in 2013, replacing Google Talk, and it was supposed to be the messaging app that would be used everywhere. It launched with SMS/MMS integration as well, so you could actually use it as the one messaging app for all types of messages. But that was eventually stripped out (except for Google Voice/Google Fi users). When Allo came around in 2016, Google was looking to create a good chat app, from the ground up. For the most part, Allo was a pretty good app, however it lacked the adoption that others have had. Which ultimately made Google "pause investment" back in April after it lost Allo's lead to Facebook, and now ultimately shutting it down for good.
Shutting down these services is not a surprise for Google. This is something that Google does pretty routinely, create new products and then shut them down a few years later. This year has just been a pretty big year for "spring cleaning" at Google. It has announced that it is shutting down Google+, Inbox, YouTube Gaming, Allo and Hangouts. Some of which are pretty large and popular products for Google, making it a bit of a tougher pill to swallow when it comes
Impact: In this somewhat lengthy blog post from Google, it mentioned Messages, Duo, Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. But there is another chat app that it did not mention. That is Google Voice. This is a service that many had feared would be getting killed off for many years. Likely the only reason why it has not been killed off yet is because it is hosting phone numbers for users, and it's not as simple as just shutting it down like Allo or Hangouts. There's no news yet on Google Voice, so those using Google Voice can sit tight for now. It hasn't gotten any real updates in quite a while, and it appears that Google is trying to merge it with Google Fi, so it's only a matter of time before the name is gone, but the functionality likely won't be disappearing anytime soon.
Allo being shut down was not a big surprise to most people. It was not a widely used messaging service from Google, and it never really took off. Not to mention the fact that most of the features had been moved over to Android Messages (and Google is focusing more on RCS these days). But Hangouts was a bit more surprising. Now it also hasn't received any meaningful updates in quite a while, but it is a much more popular chat app from Google. In fact, it has over a billion installs on the Google Play Store, so it's no small chat app – and it's the oldest one from Google right now. But when Google pulls developers off of these apps and stop developing for it in general, it is usually a sign that it'll be going away soon. Now Google did hint that Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet would be replacing it, when those were announced in March of 2017, but the fact that those are only available for G Suite customers and not all Google customers, means that it is not a straight replacement, at least not yet. But Google has said that it will open both up to all of its customers in the future. So that will change, the only question is when.