Google's video chat merger begins: There are now two 'Google Meet' apps

Google’s video chat merger begins: There are now two ‘Google Meet’ apps

Enlarge / One day, Google’s messaging lineup will look like this (assuming Google can stop launching competing products).

Amadeo Rum

Google officially launches the merger of its two video chat applications, Google Meet and Google Duo. Google announced the merger in June, with plans to retain the Google Meet brand name while merging the best of both codebases into the Google Duo app. According to Google’s PR email (no links, sorry), people will start seeing Duo’s app and website branding move to Google Meet this week. Google’s various rebranding changes are all rolling out, so they’ll come at different times for different people, but Google says the full rebranding should be complete for everyone by September.

Google Duo is therefore renamed Google Meet and the existing Google Meet app remains for a bit. This means that there is now of them applications called “Google Meet”. Google has a Help article detailing this extremely confusing situation, calling the two Meet apps “Google Meet (Original): The Updated Meet App” and “Google Meet: The Updated Duo App.” The “Google Meet (original)” application will one day be put on the pasture; it’s only staying while Google rebuilds the meeting feature on top of Google Duo. Did everyone follow this?

The Meet and Duo video services were both designed as a reaction to Google’s much more stable communication competition. Google Meet was technically created in 2017 as a group enterprise video chat app called “Google Hangouts Meet”, but it really became a major project after Zoom’s growth explosion in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Google Meet was still stuck behind a paywall during the early months of the work-from-home era, and while it eventually became as easy to use as Zoom, it was after Zoom became a household name.

Google’s two “Meet” apps. The one on the left is Duo. The good one is Meet.

Amadeo Rum

Google Duo was released in 2016 alongside the “companion app” Google Allo in response to the growth of WhatsApp. Google and Facebook engaged in a $22 billion bidding war for WhatsApp two years earlier. Google lost out and spent the next two years building a WhatsApp clone called Google Allo. Rather than integrating video chat into the app, Google split video functionality into a separate app called Google Duo. WhatsApp didn’t have video chat back then, so you could use Google Duo video chat with Facebook’s WhatsApp Where Hello from Google, if you like.

Allo and Duo originally focused on India, which led Duo to create a one-to-one video chat system that used little bandwidth and worked well on unstable connections. This efficient video chat system will be the basis of the new combo app, with Google building Meet’s meeting link functionality into Duo and renaming it. The install base is probably also a factor here. As the default Android app, Google Duo has over 5 billion downloads on the Play Store, while Meet only has 100 million. Google’s path allows for a smoother transition for those 5 billion installs, while the 100 million will have to switch manually. Google says it will hide the old, original Google Meet app from App Store searches in September. Eventually, it will need to implement a pop-up message for existing users of the old Google Meet app that tells them to upgrade.

The move comes because Google “unified” its messaging teams in 2020, with one person, Google Workspace VP and GM Javier Soltero, taking the reins of “all of Google’s collective communications products.” That should mean Google Hangouts, Google Meet, Google Chat, Google Messages, Google Duo and Google Voice, and Google has even added the Android phone app for good measure. It was announced last month that Soltero was leaving Google, so it’s only been two years on the work of unifying messaging. No one knows who, if anyone, is taking over as the new “head of messaging”. Soltero’s plan is still ongoing, however, aside from this Meet and Duo merger, Hangouts will eventually shut down in a few months. This new, more cohesive lineup will leave one Google video app and three Google chat apps.

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