Every time Google tweaks its communication offerings, I am reminded that it has become a gigantic company, with the same dysfunction associated with large industrial companies. Today they had another go at their communication portfolio and naming convention. Here are some of the names of various products — Hangouts, Meet, Chat, Duo. If you can tell what each one does and why it exists, then you go to the top of the genius leaderboard. I don’t know about you, but these name changes have become such a headache. So much so, there is a little comic strip around it.
Here is how I understand the announcement.
- Google Meet will now be for video conference calls.
- Google Hangouts is dead. Google Chat replaces it.
- Google Chat, which was part of Google Office Suite, is now for everyone. It will work inside Gmail and also in a standalone app. It has group messaging and direct messaging.
- Google Hangouts won’t work on Google Fi. All SMS messages will flow to Messages.
- Since Hangouts is gone, you obviously won’t be able to make calls using Google Voice.
“New telecommunications regulations are being introduced in the EU and U.S. beginning in 2021,” Google noted in a blog post. “To comply with these new regulations, we need to remove the call phones feature in Hangouts.”
I am Google Office (nee Workspace) customer. I prefer it over Microsoft Office. But I don’t care about Google’s video conferencing service. I didn’t care about Hangouts. And honestly, I don’t think the new Chat isn’t that important to me. What I want is a product that does everything — and allows me to use my Google ID to access everything in a single place. If I wanted to open a video conferencing app — Zoom is better. If I wanted a text chat app with group messaging, then Signal and Telegram are better.
What is needed is simplicity, ease of use, and singular experience. A communication-related app (or service) should essentially be a simple offering — a tool that works across platforms and devices. It should have one name. It should do one thing — connect people via text, voice, and video. Apple is no different — iMessage, FaceTime Audio, FaceTime Video, and now Intercom. A single brand that offers all functionality should help cut through the clutter of modern life and incessant choices we have to make all the time.
Simplicity and clarity in communications around a product, brand, or strategy reflect a corporate coherence. And that is why I think the chop-crop-paste approach to communication apps speaks of something bigger. Google feels unfocused and hampered by the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen. A while ago, I read a piece on the Interbrand’s blog about the 10 most common naming mistakes, and there is one bit that stood out:
People will talk about a name for just a few weeks before they transfer the association and commentary to the product or experience. And real equity exists when the name and the experience become one. So plan your launch, or re-naming and migration strategy, carefully. Give them the right something to talk about.
I wish companies like Apple, Google, and others pay attention to that insight, I have highlighted.