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Chat: Google’s new messaging application could be another disaster in the making

Google is working on a new application called Chat that lets you send SMSes as well as rich multimedia messages as well.

tech Updated: Apr 20, 2018 13:10 IST
Kul Bhushan
Kul Bhushan
Hindustan Times
Chat,Google Chat,Android Messenger
Everything you need to know about Google’s new app called Chat.(REUTERS)

Google is taking another shot at messaging application. After having launched Android Messages erstwhile known as Messenger, Hangouts, Allo and Duo, Google is now working on an application called Chat.

This essentially means Chat is a two-in-one messaging app allowing users to send multimedia messages like WhatsApp or Facebook as well as send traditional SMSes, reports TheVerge. The concept is highly similar to Apple’s iMessage that replaces the usual SMS app on iPhones.

The new messaging application will be based ‘Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services’, a communication technology standard.

The revamp also includes a web client, inspired by WhatsApp. Google offers a web client for its Google Allo messaging application though. Google’s new Chat app will come with some standard features such as group messaging, read receipts and typing indicators among others. It will also have Google’s machine-learning based Smart Reply feature which allows users to just tap on predictive responses suggested by the AI.

Google Chat: Already set for doom?

Google’s new messaging application already faces a few challenges. The primary challenge is the dependency of telecom operators. Since the Chat app is based on a carrier service, Google heavily relies on telcos for the adoption. The company hopes that telecom operators will provide the service free or at least at an affordable price. But this is something outside Google’s purview and at a global scale, it could be pretty difficult for the company to manage.

According to TheVerge, 55 operators around the world support RCS Universal Profile. This also includes India’s Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel. OEMs including HTC, Asus, Lenovo, LG and India’s Intex also support the technology. But having so many different OEMs onboard won’t be enough for a uniform experience on phones worldwide. Ultimately, it could lead to another fragmentation, Google’s biggest headache over the years.

Another big challenge with Google’s Chat app is that RCS-based messages aren’t strong on encryption — something that privacy-concerned users may not really appreciate. For instance, apps such as Telegram, WhatsApp and Facebook offer end-to-end encryption to their users.

“RCS continues to be a carrier-owned service. So legal intercept and other laws that exist that allow carriers to have access to the data continues to be the case,” Anil Sabharwal, Google executive who’s spearheading the project, told TheVerge.

Google’s foray into messaging space hasn’t been really great over the years. Akin to its doomed Google Plus social networking platform, the company hasn’t been able to replicate the success WhatsApp has achieved or Facebook has with its Facebook Messenger.

These two rival platforms already have millions of users whereas Google’s newer apps haven’t really taken off, in spite of some really intriguing features. For instance, Google Allo uses machine learning technology to make the instant messaging experience fun and smarter.

The silver lining for Google is the large number of users who are still falling back to the default messaging app and not on board with any of these instant messaging apps. Google’s Sabharwal says roughly 8 trillion SMS-based messages are sent each year.

“At the end of the day… the native SMS app is where users are. They’re not interested in going to a different place to use SMS,” he noted.

First Published: Apr 20, 2018 13:02 IST