Ars Technica tackles the terrible history of Google Messaging

Originally published at: Ars Technica tackles the terrible history of Google Messaging | Boing Boing


@jlw the link looks a bit broke. it has a left half and a right half, and both sides seem to be a google search, not a link to ars.

[eta] A decade and a half of instability: The history of Google messaging apps | Ars Technica

^ look like it should be that


Thanks! We’re having problem with linking in our own posts. Thanks WP!


i think “twenty years of instability: the history of wp links.” is their follow-up article :slight_smile:


Seems fixed. I had to do an amazing amount of cookie clearing just to be able to load the page. :slight_smile:


Google has a messaging service?


Ow my Broca’s area


Google definitely has good engineers, and knows how to make good products (which is a separate thing). But making good products isn’t their business – attention is – and every time they make something good, after the applause dies down, they realise it’s an albatross for their real business, and then kill or ruin it.

You can take pride in your work, and be good at it, and believe in ideas like “don’t be evil”, but as long as you’re an ad company, you’re always going to end up sucking and being evil, because that’s the mission you’ve set yourself.


The balkanization of various approaches to text messaging that has been occurring over the last few years feels like yet another slow slide into corporately led societal dysfunction. We had a pretty good run there in the early cellular days when the remaining vestiges of the trust-busting intents of breaking up Ma Bell still had some sway in enforcing interlinking of SMS services (as was required since that technology rode on top of the telephone network). We don’t need any business enterprise controlling the most basic forms of everyday communication - adversarial interoperability where have you gone?


Well, there’s still SIP, and whatever protocol Jabber runs on.

I still remember when AOL Instant Messenger was A Thing, and moreso allowed other companies access to how the protocol worked and/or their APIs to allow third party clients.


Here by i reveal (yet again) that i’m an ancient out-of-touch grandpa-simpson by asking: What functionality is lost (or shifted) these days by sending an email instead of a SMS/text/“messaging”? I get that they’re typically shorter, expecting a faster turn-around, (and often burdened with abbreviations)… But what, for instance, am i missing by arranging and even making mid-course corrections for a lunch date via email? yes i’m being serious here – though not seriously so. (“email!? you dumb old @#$ you! email is dead!!”)


Email is dead. Until it’s not. Like this: I go away for a couple hours to do work, and someone Slacks me. Yay! But I don’t see it, and Slack knows the truth, and sends me an email telling me someone Slacked me. So even Slack knows that email isn’t dead.


but it also meant the product had no plan for making money

The sad fate of many great Google products. I’m looking at you, Google Reader.


In practice, the disadvantages of email are

  1. It doesn’t provide instant(ish) notifications
  2. The UI is clumsier due to subject lines and the need to accommodate long messages
  3. You don’t know how (or even if) text formatting, attachments etc. will be presented at the other end
  4. No read receipts
  5. It doesn’t allow for end-to-end encryption as iMessage, WhatsApp and Signal do

All of those are debatable – you can set up push notifications or PGP, and some clients have convenient threaded views – but the nature of email means you can’t rely on any of it. If I send someone a picture in WhatsApp, I know they can see the picture as I sent it, I know their phone alerted them, I know it was end-to-end encrypted, etc., because there’s only one app they could use to receive the message, and that’s how it works.

Whenever people try to improve the email experience, they end up creating semi-proprietary systems (Domino, Exchange, GMail, Hello) that are kind of email, but really need everyone to be using the same software to get the benefits. And then you may as well have just made iMessage.


More people have been to Russia than me.



I like my Google schadenfreude as much as anyone else, but not to the point of reading 75 pages of it (as measured by the “Print” function). Any Cliff’s Notes and juicy gossip on the actual infighting? Google’s legendary attention span of a mayfly is well-documented (and caused by internal incentives, promotions are for people building new stuff, not stabilizing or maintaining existing stuff, hence the graveyard of discontinued products).


Right there with you, friend. I will die on this hill. Email remains the killer app, the rest is adjunct. As @RobJ replied, when the others fail, they fall back to email.

ETA: remember this essay from 2014?


Every. Fucking. Time someone posts some inane middle management bullshit at work, I get simultaneous messages on jabber, teams and email. Actually contacting people to ask them useful stuff is still best done with a voice call.

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This quote from a NYT article:

Late last month [March 2020], Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, held a videoconference with thousands of the search giant’s employees using Google Meet, three people who attended the call said. During the session, one employee asked why Zoom was reaping the biggest benefits even though Google had long offered Meet.

Mr. Schindler tried placating the engineer’s concerns, the people said. Then his young son stumbled into view of the camera and asked if his father was talking to his co-workers on Zoom. Mr. Schindler tried correcting him, but the boy went on to say how much he and his friends loved using Zoom.