Google’s Love for Messaging Apps Lives, Sneaks in Chat Feature in YouTube’s Latest Update


Google has an obsession with messaging/chat apps. It is a niche that the tech giant has failed to crack thanks to the success of similar apps from the competition. Over the past few years, the American organization has released apps to take on the likes of WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage but we know how that story ends. Allo, for instance, was received negatively when it launched, but Google is supporting it with new features that has made it a better app over time. Yet, how many people still have the app after its honeymoon period came to an end (I mean when the media ceased paying attention to it)? I get that Google wants a unified messaging app for the Android platform, but Allo and Hangouts (which dropped text messaging capabilities) have failed to meet that goal.

Today, YouTube is receiving an update that is introducing a chat/messaging feature for Android and iOS but Google is calling it a sharing feature where users can directly send videos to contacts, as well as adding texts and emojis. Other options include inviting people to form a group of up to 30 people for group messages.

If this sounds familiar, then you are right. The feature has been undergoing tests since May 2016. In that period, Google has honed the update’s feature set, including the ability to watch a video while texting. It even has a button dubbed ‘Shared’ where chats and shared clips are be populated.

In an iOS-esque design, YouTube’s Android app has since been updated with bottom-placed controls (hit Google Play if yours hasn’t) where you can easily access these new additions. Invitations work via email, in addition to SMS or any other social networking apps.

While this is a welcome addition, I am not certain ‘sharing feature’ is correct in this scenario. Users can still share apps to contacts the ol’-fashioned way where the OS calls apps to finish the task. Rather, the sharing tab should be called what it is, and that is a messaging interface. However, it makes sense why the feature would dodge the ‘chat’ tag amid a sea of apps like Allo, Hangouts and Duo. We will be so overwhelmed.

It should be noted that the sharing option does not offer any distinguishing features to set it apart from what other messaging apps do, some of which do much more. I mean, you will watch a video in a given thread, and that is it. You cannot watch a video simultaneously with group members, nor can you share playlists.

Unlike Allo or similar apps, YouTube has billions of users, meaning it does not need to entice users to opt in. So, there is that.

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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]