Google’s Long History of Messaging App Rebrands, Pivots and Retirements Explained


Story by Lucas Ropek, Gizmodo AU

Google is an absolute menace when it comes to messaging. As it officially retires its long-running Hangouts app, it’s worth noting that the company has launched over a dozen different messengers over the course of the last decade and a half. Some of them have had long, confused life cycles; others have died quick and ignominious deaths. Worse still, many have been developed and launched in tandem to one another, resulting in weird redundancies for users.

Why the hell have there been so many? And what exactly is Google playing at, here? That’s the eternal mystery.

When compared to a company like Apple (whose iMessages have been tweaked over time to become a reliable favourite for millions), or Meta (which acquired WhatsApp in 2014 and then swiftly turned it into the most popular messaging app on the planet), Google’s strategy seems like a weird goose chase of epic proportions. There seems to be no official explanation for why the tech giant can’t quite get it together, either. Turning to random voices on the internet for interpretation, I stumbled across a few potential answers to this enduring mystery. One person on Reddit explained it this way:

There was a time when Google was the company I would have thought would corner the messaging market. More than any of the competitors at the time, Google had the brand image and technical capability to push its messaging solutions. But Google never learned that while disruption is a business strategy in Silicon Valley, disrupting your own business is a shitty idea.

Hmm, interesting thought, web rando. Another Redditor got even more analytical:

“[They have a dozen messenger apps] …Because their org structure & performance review mechanisms aren’t well suited for a coherent product strategy. People get promotions for releasing new products, not so much for maintaining and steadily supporting existing ones.”

Still another armchair commentator kept things basic:

“Throw enough shit on the wall and something is bound to stick right?”

Whatever the reason, Google has certainly made a reputation for itself when it comes to blitzing the world with an endless string of messaging applications. While the company has gone through far too many pivots and rebrands to jot them all down here, we decided to compile a few of the most stand-out platforms and applications in the tech giant’s long history of fumbled product strategy. Click through and be confused.

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