There are so many instant messaging apps these days that when Google launched Google Allo, for many it was hard to believe that it’s an instant messaging app because when you think of a company like Google, you think of something totally new, something to change or bend the trend, rather than introducing something that was already introduced back in 2008.
A new instant messaging app?
Now WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have become the de facto instant messaging apps. Then there is this old app called iMessage in the iOS environment that people have been using for years. So would you switch to Google Allo from WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, or Telegram, or Line, or iMessage or even one of the Indian flavours, Hike?
Switching between instant messaging apps isn’t as easy as it may seem. It’s not just a matter of downloading the app and installing it, which, pretty much everyone can do. People don’t use instant messaging apps these days for features, because everywhere the features are more or less the same. People use those instant messaging apps that are used by their friends, family and colleagues. What’s the use of switching to Google Allo if nobody I know uses it? So I don’t only have to start using a new instant messaging app, I also need to nudge others into using it, that in itself could be a Herculean task.
But being from Google, Google Allo may soon get millions of users simply because it is an instant messaging app from Google. Just like Google+. Despite most of the people in the world using Facebook, Twitter and a slew of other social networking websites and apps, Google+ has a decent user base because people who use Google+ think it’s more of a geeky social networking platform. So millions of people may end up using Google Allo simply because they want to be seen using something different and cooler (everything from Google seems to be cooler). But first of all, the people you normally interact with need to be on Google Allo and this may take some months before you decide to switch to Google Allo from one of your favourite instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Telegram.
What about Hangouts, the other Google instant messaging app that has been around for ages and comes pre-installed on almost every Android smartphone, whether you want to use it or not? In many cases you can’t even uninstall it? Google keeps on changing various features in Google Hangouts but the instant messaging app hasn’t really caught on.
Instant messaging is the next big thing after social networking and most of the big and small companies realise this. It’s not just a way to communicate with your friends, business colleagues and family, chatbots are enabling businesses to even sell products and services through these instant messaging apps and herein lies their power. Ultimately, most of the instant messaging companies want to be able to sell products and services right from these instant messaging apps and take a cut from the sales. Facebook Messenger through its chatbots already seems to be doing this. There are big bucks to be made here so this is why everybody is jumping into the arena, and although Google is playing the catch-up game here, with its financial might and an abundant supply of resources, even if it takes years to catch up with instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Google needed to make a start somewhere.
Google Allo is an artificial intelligence-driven instant messaging app. Personally I haven’t used it, but this reviewer in New York Times says that when you receive new messages, Google Allo suggests what your reply should be. So whenever you receive a message in Google Allo, you are going to be presented with a big menu of choices that you can use in order to reply. Whether this is annoying or useful depends on how comfortable you are with such interruptions.
Anyway, in order to make people switch from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger there needs to be something extraordinary in Google Allo. Instant messaging apps don’t get users through advertising and branding, they get users through word-of-mouth publicity. Just like any other instant messaging app, Google Allo is going to need initial evangelists. If people really like it, they will certainly recommend it to others.