The tech world is running out of veterans.
Google Talk is the latest hero from the early millennium to be quietly put out to pasture as the way we work and play changes.
As of June 26, the remaining 7.5 million Talk, or Gchat, users were officially forced over to Google Hangouts. Put simply, Hangouts is a more polished service, with more features, and is part of the move away from email in the workplace. Talk, by contrast, was a Gmail-bound chat service that couldn’t exist outside our fading love for email.
While few of us will miss those unadorned little chirps from beneath our email tab–although the ability to draw and send little pictures alongside your inbox was a nice time filler on a Friday afternoon–Google is not done tinkering with Hangouts. It wants us to use video calling, and it wants us to keep chatting, but it wants us to do so on two different apps.
Which makes us think that removing Talk from the equation may end up complicating our lives. Here’s how Google is making things more complicated.
Google Talk Was a Simpler Time
Google Talk began life in 2005, although its 12-year life span has really been in steady decline since Hangouts joined the Google stable in 2013. It never really developed beyond a cute messaging service between Gmailers, and its obituary could have been penned after Google’s decision to house group video calling in an entirely new service, rather than build out Talk. Its app has been missing from the Play Store since that fateful 2013 decision, and really, anyone still using Gchat has to be commended for their stubbornness, or loyalty.
The switch to Hangouts shouldn’t be too much of a fuss. There’s still a chat service sidebar available in Gmail, and all the Talk contacts will automatically transfer across. Google Talk represents a simpler time for online communication when each form, be it text chat, video calling, or instant messaging, all lived alone in specialized apps. But ironically, its passing doesn’t do much to clarify Google’s current web communications approach. In its place have risen half a dozen Google apps, and the future of its immediate descendant, Hangouts, is far from clear.
We may yet yearn for the simplicity of the Google Talk world.
Google’s Many, Many Communications Apps
Google’s major tech competitors are busy building out their flagship apps into all-in-one platforms.Facebook recently filled out its messaging app WhatsApp with video calling, and Microsoft finally got around to giving Skype a facelift, and turned it into a Snapchat clone.
Conversely, Google insisted on separating out messaging and video calling by releasing two new apps. Google Duo is a dedicated video calling app so streamlined it hosts only one-to-one calls. Google Allo is a dedicated messaging platform equipped with Google Assistant, but just has a messaging service and no more.
Meanwhile, Hangouts, Talk’s replacement and the only prominent Google service to gather a few features together, has also been split up into the video conferencing platform Meet, and the messaging app Chat. Confused yet?
Splitting Meet and Chat is part of Google’s attempt to challenge Slack as the app of choice for professional teams. But what it does is muddy Google’s overall approach to web communications.
Google Talk Died Because Email Is Dying
That quest to rival Slack reveals the need to let Google Talk go the way of the Dodo. Slack is an email killer, encouraging professional teams to communicate by instant messaging and video calls, switching conversation to real-time rather than using email, with its delay.
Google Talk was tied intimately to email and that was a problem in the modern office. It worked because every employee had their email open from 9 to 5. Switching screens when you got the chat alert was no different than constantly checking for a reply to your most recent email.
Now we know that constant email dependence interrupts employees and even cause increases in anxiety and heart rate. Real-time communication methods like video conferencing were always going to kill email.
So you can’t really argue that Talk was performing a vital role. However, it takes an entirely new workflow set-up to replace it, and what we don’t need is two new apps that split that new workflow in half.
Dividing Hangouts into Meet and Chat seems like an over-complication. Slack has flourished because it requires that employees just keep a single window open for all their interactions. It has its own video platform, one that’s accessible from the same screen that houses its chat service, which is also the same screen that sends email alerts.
Google’s insistence on granulating everything down to its key features won’t compete with that kind of condensed ease of use. It’s true we don’t need Talk anymore, but it may not matter if Google continues to make demands on its users to open more and more apps to replace it. Slack seems even more appealing now.