Allo, goodbye

So, Google are releasing another messaging/conversation app. After Google Talk, Hangouts, Voice, Google+ Chat, Wave, Gmail chat, Messenger and Spaces, comes Allo.

You’d think that after eight attempts, Google would have learned what it needs to do to make a chat app succeed, but no:

  • Allo doesn’t have SMS integration. Director of engineering Erik Kay says the diversity of Android hardware precludes Google from creating an iMessage-like system that co-opts SMS, according to The Verge. (And yet Hangouts supports SMS.)

  • Allo doesn’t have any desktop support. Not even web-based.

  • There’s end-to-end encryption, but it’s off by default and has to be explicitly requested for each conversation. Because, and here’s the real poison pill…

  • By default, Allo listens to all your conversations so that Google’s AI technology can analyze your photos, text and other information.

I’m tempted to say that literally nobody wants this, but I’m sure there are a few people who do. I’m betting that they’re a small minority, though.

I know that personally, I’m OK with having the option to invite Google’s “assistant” into my conversations, but the default needs to be that it minds its own business. This is not negotiable.

In addition, any new messaging system I’m going to adopt at this point has to have robust end-to-end encryption turned on by default. It needs to deal with SMS for people who won’t use it, and it needs some sort of desktop option. (I’m OK with web-based desktop clients.)

So I’ll carry on using Signal (my #1 choice), WhatsApp (my #2), and Hangouts for the people who aren’t on Signal or WhatsApp.

And then there’s Duo, the new video call app they’ve also announced. God only knows why they’re bothering with that, because they already have Hangouts which works on mobile and the web, whereas Duo is strictly mobile only. I can only assume that there’s major management dysfunction at Google.