I welcome Google’s unified chat service with open armsAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
Over the past few weeks we’ve seen many websites digging into one of Google’s presumed services to be released at Google I/O, purportedly named Google Babel. It’s also been known to be called Google Babble, and even as of lately, Google Hangouts. From the looks of the leaked details, it seems that this will be Google’s shot as a unified, cross-platform chat service – and I welcome the change if it’s true.
It seems that companies all over are trying to revamp how we traditionally use chat. We noticed it first with Facebook’s introduction to Chat Heads, which is a service that was introduced with Facebook Home. Chat Heads creates a corresponding bubble on your screen when a new Facebook chat begins, where you are able to click on the bubble and open the chat from whatever screen you happen to be on (on Android phones, that is – on iOS you can only use Chat Heads within the native Facebook app). To get rid of the chat, you hold the bubble down and drag it to the ‘X’ at the bottom of the screen. The feature takes some getting used to, and I’ve seen mixed reviews on it. Regardless, it was an interesting attempt at creating a unified sense of messaging through Facebook.
On a grander scale, we’re waiting to see what Google Babel (Babble, Hangouts?) has in store for us when it comes to unified chats. First of all, I would like to say that I’m not too fond of any of these leaked names. Google Babel sounded alright because it made me think of the word ‘babble’ – a word I use quite often to describe ongoing chatter. Google Hangouts? That makes no sense. What’s wrong with simply using Google Chat? I feel like sometimes it is hit or miss when it comes to naming certain Google services. Gmail makes sense because it’s Google e-mail; Google Talk makes sense because it’s a Google messaging app; Google Docs? Google Documents! But then you have Play Music or Google Play Store, which a lot of new Android users get confused about because more often than not they’ve heard the term “Android Market” or thought they would look for “Music” or even “Google Music”. Just try and keep it consistent is what I’m basically saying – Google Hangouts just doesn’t sound like it’s getting the message across, and naming a product relevant to the features is important in my opinion.
Aside from the name, I feel like it might be a step in the right direction for cross-platform messaging. The leaks point that Google is working on this project for Android, Chrome, Google+, and even iOS. So far leaks indicate that ‘Babel’, or ‘Hangouts’, will include Google Talk, Hangouts (which is currently a video chat system – the name would presumably just be rebranded into this new unified service), and Google+ Messenger at first, but there have been rumors that says it will bridge Google Voice in later. Another greatly anticipated feature is synced notifications, which means that you only have to view the chat once on any platform and it will register on all other platforms automatically.
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any leaks indicating plans to release this for BlackBerry or Windows Phone yet, but I imagine if they’re moving towards a complete cross-platform messaging app to end all cross-platform messaging apps it would only be a matter of time.
I’m surprised that I haven’t heard anything about including SMS or MMS as a part of this unified solution as that, to me, is a huge part of making this unification complete. However, given that it’s supposed to be cross-platform I imagine it would be a lot harder to integrate other platform’s messaging apps into the equation – but I feel like they should at least integrate Android’s SMS/MMS in with the service.
In a way I’m hoping that this pushes more services to work together to unify how we chat using our phones and computers. I do find it slightly annoying when I have to switch back and forth between SMS, Facebook, and Google Talk just to keep up with all of the conversations. My thumbs just get so exhausted!
Readers, what are your thoughts on the new Google Hangouts (or Babel - I never know what to call it. We could just call it 'Bangouts')? Are you excited for a unified platform? Is there anything you would like to see come from this change that hasn’t been mentioned yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!