If you know anything about Google’s messaging strategy in the last few years, you know that it’s been a bit of a mess. Allo, the consumer app, launched without the cross-platform features users expect. Text messaging on mobile is mired in inter-carrier warfare. And Hangouts has become a punchline.
On two of those fronts, Google has been making progress. And today, in a bit of a surprise, Google has signaled that it finally decided Hangouts is supposed to be: a business communication tool to complement its consumer apps. We’re now getting a glimpse of what that means — and if the early demo I saw is any indication, it might be time to stop making fun of Hangouts.
That’s because Hangouts is turning into a group chat system that looks a hell of a lot like Slack. Like Microsoft, Google is launching a Slackalike — and like Microsoft, it’s betting that deep integration with the rest of its office suite is going to be catnip for IT managers and cost-conscious CFOs.
I’ve used Slack at different companies and projects over the last three years and I’ve never understood what all the hype was about. To me it was just the newest kid on the messaging block. Then about two weeks ago I started a new job and the company I work for uses Hipchat. I immediately became aware of how inferior Hipchat is to Slack. There is zero delight, personality, and thoughtfulness to it. Sometimes you don’t miss something until it’s gone.
For all the great thinking that went into the design and usability of Slack, I’ve always found it to be where people waste a lot of time sharing links, videos, animated GIFs, and chatting about things unrelated to their work.
If I ran a company, I’d be willing to try offsetting time wasted on Slack by eliminating email.