Google announced that it was bringing Messaging to Maps back in November, so that users could message businesses and ask questions like, are you open today, or do you have this or that, etc. However, it took until the new year to actually roll out this feature to Google Maps. Now you will be able to message businesses via their business profiles on Google Maps. It's a feature that should prove to be very useful for most people, and much more useful than adding messages to YouTube.
On the surface, this may not seem like all that important of a feature to add to Google Maps, but it turns out it is. Many Google Maps users ask questions in their "review" of a business on the platform, and those questions never get answered, or it is asked on another review and the person thinks they are being asked that question, so the question doesn't get a good answer. It's unfortunate, but that's how Google Maps was set up. Now, Google is allowing users to ask these businesses directly these questions, and they aren't out in the open either, which is a nice touch. Though if enough people are asking the same question, business owners may want to update their Google Maps profile with that information (like holiday hours).
Not all Businesses support Messaging
Out of the gate, not all businesses support messaging, it's something that businesses are going to need to opt into, so that over time you should see more and more businesses support messaging. Making it an opt-in thing is actually a really good decision on Google's part. As businesses need to have the Google My Business app installed to reply to messages anyways, and without that, your message would never get read. Currently there are a very small number of businesses that support it - mostly "mom and pop" places and not big chain places. But when you come across a business that does support it, there will be a "Message" option on their listing. It'll be in the row with Directions, Call, Save and Share Place. Just hit the "Message" button and send your message to the business. This can be anything from what hours are they open on a specific holiday, or if a restaurant can handle a party of 20 people on Friday night, etc. It is essentially aimed at reducing th e number of calls being executed.
When businesses do reply, it will show the individual's name. So that if the business issues smartphones to all of the managers at that business, they can each install the app and make sure messages aren't being left unread or not replied too. It will also show the user's name under their message. So if you asked the business something and then you get their and they say they can't do that, you can tell them who you were speaking with.
Google Maps competing with Facebook Messenger and iMessage
This is a feature that Facebook and Apple have built into their messaging apps already. With Facebook, it's pretty simple, since most of these businesses will already have a Facebook page, you can message them through there - as they won't need to create a page or profile to respond to messages. And it works the same way in iMessage. Though the difference with Apple/Facebook and Google is the fact that Apple and Facebook are doing this through their messaging apps, and not through a navigation or Maps app like Google is. It's making it a bit more inconvenient to message companies, but Google says that this is so that you don't accidentally message a business something you wanted to send to your mom, or maybe your significant other.
Google could also use this to compete with Twitter in the long run. Many businesses use Twitter for Customers Support inquiries to help out their customers. Of course, many do also ask simple questions like what time the business is open today or on a holiday. So if Google Maps messaging does take off, they could use this to compete with Twitter as well, which would be impressive to say the least, though it would take quite a bit of work to take a chunk of Twitter's customer support traffic away from them.
Yet Another Google Service With Messaging
Lately, Google has made it known that it really doesn't know what it wants to do when it comes to messaging. It has decided that it is going to shut down Allo this year and Hangouts around next year (after Hangouts Chat and Meet are available to all). Yet, Google has decided to launch messaging in Google Maps for some reason. While it makes sense to have it in Maps and not part of Android Messages, it is still fragmentation, and it's going to get confusing real quick.
Google has had messaging support in just about every app it has. And recently it added messaging to YouTube. It's a feature that sounds cool, as you can message your favorite YouTubers, but in reality it will likely only be used for messaging viewers that they've won a giveaway or something similar. This is part of Google just looking to copy features from its competitors, to its own services. And messaging isn't the only thing that they've copied in recent months. Stories in YouTube is another big one. Though that is also something that virtually everyone has copied from Snapchat. Facebook was first to copy it and bring it over to Instagram, then Facebook, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. And now Facebook has more monthly Stories users on each of its service than Snapchat does.
Messaging in Google Maps should be live for everyone now (if not, within the next few days). We will still need to wait for businesses to add Messaging to their listings on Google Maps though, before we can really message businesses. But this is something that should really take off in the coming months, as it is going to be a much simpler way to ask questions to businesses, instead of having to call them and sit on hold for quite a while.