Google has recently launched a series of seven new features for Google Chat in an attempt to shift its identity from a purely enterprise-focused tool to an application more suited to personal messaging. Google Chat, which traces its roots to Google Talk (gchat) and Google Hangouts, is set to undergo a significant expansion of functionality.
Google Chat: The Personal Communication Platform
Traditionally, Google Chat was positioned as an internal communication tool for businesses, helping facilitate project collaboration with features akin to popular platforms like Slack and Discord. Its primary function was to provide an intelligent and secure environment for team communication and workstream collaboration. However, Google is now ambitiously marketing Chat for personal use. According to a recent company blog post, Google Chat is broadening its horizons with features like Smart Compose, message editing, quoting messages, read receipts for group messages, link insertions, and third-party Chat apps/integrations. Another highlight is the feature that automatically hides inactive Direct Messages (DMs) and spaces after seven days.
The Evolution of Google Chat
The migration from classic Hangouts to Google Chat commenced in 2021, a transition that was initially rolled out to free users. This significant shift in Google’s communication tools resulted in a work-focused application becoming a platform for personal communication. As Google Chat moves towards a consumer-friendly framework, it continues to strive to balance its roles as a professional and personal communication tool. Google Chat’s major advantage is its integration with Gmail, which is present on every Android device. This familiarity, coupled with a modern and user-friendly standalone app, strengthens its position as a tool for personal communication.
What’s New in Google Chat?
Among the new features, Smart Compose takes center stage. It provides contextually aware suggestions that are grayed out in the text bar, aiming to speed up your messaging process. The feature is currently rolling out for web users in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Check out this video to see how Smart Compose works.
Message Editing and Quoting
Have you ever sent a message and immediately realized an error? The new message editing feature lets you easily delete or edit a sent message. Furthermore, Google Chat will now allow users to quote a previous message, eliminating confusion in group chats by specifying the message to which they’re responding.
Read Receipts and Link Insertions
The introduction of read receipts for group messages is a valuable addition that will provide a confirmation once your message is read by the recipient. This feature will be available on both mobile and web versions of Chat. Inserting links to messages is another feature designed to improve usability. Users can hyperlink selected text to avoid pasting lengthy URLs, enhancing the reading experience. This feature will soon be available for Android users and those on the web.
Third-Party Apps Integration
In the coming weeks, users will also be able to install third-party apps for their personal Chats and spaces. Google has mentioned Giphy for adding GIFs, Asana for assigning tasks, and Zapier for custom notifications.
Future of Google Chat
Google’s clear intention to diversify Google Chat’s usage comes as a surprise, given the company’s previous focus on enterprise communication. Despite the trust issues stemming from the termination of gchat and Hangouts, the future looks promising for Google Chat as it repositions itself as a tool for personal communication. However, a notable challenge is that Google also promotes Messages and RCS (Rich Communication Services) for personal communication. While there isn’t a definitive statement outlining the difference between these two products, Google Chat seems to offer a smoother experience across multiple instances without requiring a QR code sign-in. An email address, which Google Chat uses as an identifier, often proves to be a more stable identifier than a phone number.
While the divergence between Google’s communication tools might seem confusing, the fact remains that both have unique strengths. Messages and RCS, closely tied to the Android ecosystem, have strong personal communication features and are seemingly the go-to choice for most users. However, Google Chat, despite its enterprise-first approach, can indeed function similarly. Google’s decision to refocus Google Chat towards personal communication is a testament to its commitment to providing diverse solutions to users’ needs. However, this commitment will only resonate if users choose to adopt Google Chat over other tools.
Adopting Google Chat
User adoption is perhaps the most significant challenge Google faces with this transformation. Convincing new and existing users to switch to Google Chat from other personal communication apps will indeed be an uphill task. However, the integration of novel features and improvements to user experience could sway the balance in Google Chat’s favor.
Google’s attempts to reposition Google Chat for personal use are noteworthy and demonstrate its desire to stay relevant in an ever-evolving market. While it is too early to predict this initiative’s ultimate success or failure, the company’s move to add consumer-friendly features is a step in the right direction. Remember, if you’re an iOS or Android user and want to try Google Chat, you can easily download it from the Google Play Store or the App Store. As Google Chat evolves, its increasing integration with everyday consumer applications is certainly something to watch for in the coming months.