The History of Google Messaging Apps
The history of google messaging apps goes beyond 16 years, where most of its competitors did not exist. Google has come up with numerous ideas and applications highlighting different features in each of its apps. Here is a comprehensive list of applications that Google has introduced so far to enhance the chat experience for its users.
Founded Year: 2005
Existence: 12 years
Clients: Windows, Android, The web, Blackberry, iPhone, iGoogle, Gmail, Orkut, XMPP Clients.
To work similarly to email where different service providers and clients can talk to each other over a single standard called XMPP (extensible messaging and presence protocol). It further enabled cross-communication with other chat services supporting the standard where any XMPP-compatible third party client can talk to Google Talk users.
Built on open protocols
It was a part of the second big Wave of popular instant messaging apps like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger.
The installer file size was only 1.45MB, whereas other messenger services like Yahoo or Windows consecutively provided 9.5 and 15.3MB.
Here is a series of updates that revolved around the Google Talk launch.
12/2005 – Google bought a 5% stake in AOL to build cross-communication between AIM, ICQ, and Google Talk.
01/2006 – Google came across their first official mobile client, a Blackberry app with a public XMPP network.
02/2006 – Integrated with Gmail on the web and added chat logs
03/2006 – Introduced Avatar support
07/2006 – Introduced file transfers, voicemail, and sharing music.
09/2006 – Opened Google Talk to non-Gmail accounts
11/2006 – Integration with Orkut (a social network)
12/2006 – Announced plans for integration with traditional phone systems that lets you dial a phone number from the computer.
2007 – A client for the ‘iGoogle’ customizable homepage arrived in 2007 and a standalone web client at Google.com/talk.
2008 – Google talk arrived at the iphone as a mobile web app
Google’s first foray into a video chat with Google Talk in Gmail and later the main client.
2010 – Google’s voice and video chat requires a browser plugin and runs on technology from a company called ‘Global IP Solution (GIPS)’ They bought GIPS in 2010.
2011 – Open-sourced GIPs technology and IP starting a WebTRC project. It is a dominant VoIP technology and a W3C standard that allows many web browsers to make voice and video calls without any plugins.
Android added video chat support, and Google Talk became a core feature of their operating system.
Google Talk service ran communication for Android’s push notification system, with real-time XMPP that allows quick authentication and pass messages building and OS-wide notification system around it. The system was eventually opened up to third parties.
The cloud synchronization of Google account data also ran through its services like keeping contacts and calendar events up to date. In addition, it allowed app installation from a desktop web browser using a push request without the need of the phone in hand.
It further included features like remotely uninstalling malicious apps from the phone.
With the release of Google Hangouts in 2013, Google Talk started to fade away. Google Talk allowed users to carry contacts and messages to the new service, making hangout an obvious replacement. In 2015, Google Talks windows clients officially stopped accepting logins. In 2017, third party XMPP connections to the Google Talk service stopped working, and the Gmail web integrations transitioned to Hangouts.
Founded Year: 2009
Clients: Web, Android, iOS, webOS, Blackberry
In 2009 Google introduced Google Voice, where users can use a Google phone number instead of a landline phone number or a cell phone number. In addition, the number was provided with an area code where the phone calls could be forwarded, and text messages were accessible via the web and other apps.
Back in 2007, Google acquired GrandCentral communications, where all of Google’s voice phone calls came from. It offered a new phone number with forwarding options and an audio-only voicemail box accessible over the Internet. Unfortunately, the function didn’t include texting.
The launch of Google Voice made them add a ton of features to GrandCentral. These include SMS support, conference calling and low-cost international calling. It also consisted of voicemail transcription where the Google Voice Recognition AI can transcribe voicemail into easily scalable text (Although it wasn’t super accurate).
SMS on the Google Voice number worked similar to that of a texting app where you can check them wherever the app is installed or on the web. However, getting the MMS feature became a long-run thing where it was first introduced to sprint users in 2011 and later given to the rest or all carriers in 2017. In 2014 Google Voice took off all the third-party apps.
Google Voice also used XMPP at one point to connect calls. This led users to connect landline phones to work directly over the Google voice system, making a VoIP provider that turns out to give free voice calls. However, the XMPP support was entirely shut down in 2018.
The launch of Google Fi in 2015 merged the features of Google voice with an MVNO service. However, the app was revamped in 2017 and became a part of G Suite in 2018 and got mobile VoIP calls in 2019.
Founded Year: 2009
Existence: 2 years and 8 months
Clients: The web
Google wave was introduced as an alternative to email. It was created by the same pair of brothers who introduced Google Maps to the world. It consisted of three columns, navigation and a contact column, inbox, and a message view from left to right, respectively, when previewed on desktop.
Similar to that of emails, Google Wave can create threads where users can reply to a single person or an entire group. Users also had the authority to grant or remove access to keep or remove people from the threads.
The Wave was Google’s first product to do real-time letter-to-letter communication with the help of HTML5. This was similar to that of Google Docs, where the wave threads can be seen live with messages and images without refreshing the page. It further consisted of a ‘playback’ feature where the entire process can be replayed from the beginning.
With the installation of Google Gear and Google browser API shim, Google Wave could upload photos with a drag-and-drop feature just like a native app.
In 2010 Google said that the Wave had not seen the user adoption they expected. A significant reason for this was the lack of a network. It was limited to users on Wave, where the external users interested in using it didn’t have the opportunity to join the network immediately due to an ‘inviting system’. As a result, it was opened to the public after May 2010, almost a year when the hype was already gone.
By early 2012 Google Wave was available only with a read-only feature, and it was entirely deleted by April 2012.
Founded Year: 2017
Existence: 2 years and 1 month
Clients: iOS, Android, The web
In 2017, Google launched a feature called YouTube Messages. It included a news sharing tab for mobile app users for messaging purposes. This further allowed uses to look into the conversations around a video. For desktop users, a message button was available next to the bell and app buttons. A pop-chat window came up when you wanted to share a video or have a conversation about a particular video with your friends.
The message input box also consisted of a ‘+ Video’ button to easily drop the videos to a conversation. It also had a heart button to react to messages. Users can add their phone contacts or send an ‘invitation link’ to add friends.
The feature lasted for almost 2 years and shut down its operation in 2019. However, a specific reason for this was not given for the closure.
Google Hangouts Chat
Founded Year: 2018
Existence: Till present
Clients: iOS, Android, The web
Together with Hangouts Meet, Hangouts chat was initially announced in 2017. However, the access was limited till 2018 and was only available for organizations paying for the G Suite. It was announced as an enterprise-focused communication tool to enhance communication purposes inside organizations.
From day one, Hangouts chats consisted of impressive features like @mentions, treated messages, DMs, bots, and support for rooms. Every message was threaded, representing a forum-style layout. Reply input boxes were available at the bottom of each thread and a new thread button at the bottom of everything.
Hangout chat supports several chatbots like Google Drive, Asana, Trella, etc. This enables users to stream outside info into the chat room. The service works on iOS, Android and the web, where the desktop is handled by a Progressive Web App (PWA).
The hangouts chat app is still available for users and is even considered a competitor to Slack.
Although this article mentions the most popular chat apps introduced by Google, there are 25+ chat apps altogether introduced by Google over the past few years. Most of these executions have been withdrawn in the middle for many reasons, leaving their users to adapt to different applications every 2-3 years.
If you want to know more about the Google Chat history, check out the original blog post by Ron Amadeo https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/08/a-decade-and-a-half-of-instability-the-history-of-google-messaging-apps/ which gives a comprehensive description of all the Google chat messaging apps from day one.