Why I cannot recommend Google Hangouts the way I recommended Talk

I was really curious about Google Hangouts. Their previous solution Google Talk worked a lot like I wanted it to, like the fact that it was based on an open standard (XMPP) or had XMPP federation enabled (so you could use it with people that didn’t use Googles servers.) But there were also things wrong or maybe not up to date. Definitely wrong was the fragmentation: There was Talk (standalone app, mobile client, integrated into Google Mail and Google+), but there was also another mobile app that came with the Google+ mobile app and was completely independent from Talk and last but not least there were online Hangouts. And in comparison to that gruesome WhatsApp (that AFAIK still doesn’t have a desktop client or an official way to run it on WiFi tablets!) it was lacking stuff some people missed, like the easy way to find your friends (with their number you already had) or adding images and group chats. But I always recommended Talk and never joined WhatsApp, since they have a really bad security history and I despise their take on client availability.

Generally I like some of the new features added in Hangouts, for example that they included the option to being found with your phone number. Google has mine already as a fallback in case something is wrong with my account, so I don’t mind, especially if I’m being asked and have the option to decline. (Google is getting a lot of my data because they ask nicely, but that’s something for another blog post.) And there are enough people that have my phone number but might not have my Google account info. There is also the matter of including images and other not text stuff. I didn’t expected it, but I enjoy the possibility to quickly send over a pic. And even though XMPP supported group chat as well, Google never implemented it in Talk. But they added the possibility in Hangouts, which is also a nice and useful thing in my book. So they improved in some areas that really needed it to stay relevant.

But sadly they made at least as many things worse:  A small thing, hopefully to be fixed soon, is the missing online indicator on the mobile. Another problem I experienced over the last few days is that there is sometimes a delay: I had chat message notifications in my browser that I opened up immediately just to find a chat message that was send 20 minutes ago. I get that mobile notifications can be a bit flaky sometimes, but my desktop should notify me at once when I get a new message in my instant messenger. I also have the feeling that the mobile app uses lots of resources, but I didn’t measure it. It is just a feeling that since I upgraded, I have to wait for my home screen on my android to load far to often. As far as the more integrated messenger experience is concerned they failed so far: This YouTube video  shows how inconsistent it works with video chats.

All those things might be fixed in the future, there is nothing fundamentally wrong. But I think the worst decision they made is switching away from an open protocol to their own closed one. Google had been very good in the past with public APIs and open protocols so that external developers could connect to their services. But it feels like they are turning their back on all of that, especially in their newer products. Google+ still has no way of using external clients (I for one would like a „one client for all my social networks“ solution and only Google is stopping that) and now the messaging solution is turned from open and federated to completely closed. (So far, but given that Google+ is without external apps for about two years now, I wouldn’t hold my breath as I tried after the Google+ launch.) This past openness always made me recommend Talk. I knew if I used Talk, I could also communicate with my old contacts from Jabber (XMPP) and in theory with the help of transports even other networks like ICQ or MSN. Every chat solution I used with the exception of XMPP and therefore Google Talk forced you to make your friends use the same network as yourself to be able to communicate with them. Or switch over to theirs. If somebody told me before Hangouts they don’t like Google and don’t want an account, I could tell them to use any server listed here (or even run their own) and we could still communicate. I know it would have been hard to implement the new features in compliance with XMPP, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m afraid that Google loses their openness. With the Google Reader fiasco Google lost a lot of trust and I’m growing more suspicious ever since.

Sure I’m going to use Hangouts and I hope they’ll improve at least the functional problems mentioned above. I’m still very involved in Googles infrastructure and I still trust them with lots of my data. But my trust in their openness, doing no evil and the quality of their services is damaged and I’m unsure if they’ll ever get it back as it once was.

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7 Antworten auf „Why I cannot recommend Google Hangouts the way I recommended Talk“

  1. Warum ich aber Hangouts empfehlen würde, ist dass es eine brauchbare Alternative für WhatsApp ist. Und alles was ein paar User von WhatsApp weg bekommt, ist gut

    Mit der Performance kann ich jetzt nicht bestätigen. Aber bei mir läuft alles langsam.

    Die Offenheit von XMPP ist nett, scheint aber nicht mehr in Googles Geschäftsmodell zu passen. Das kann man jetzt gut oder schlecht finden. In meinem Fall, könnte es mir nicht egaler sein. Für Entwickler hingegen ist es ein Tritt in den Schritt. Was ich dann aber doof finde ist, dass sie weder für Win8 Phones noch für Blackberry Phones einen Client zusammen schustern. Hallo Google, es sind vielleicht nur zusammen 4 – 6% aller Nutzer, aber gerade viele Firmenhandys sind von Backberry. Und gerade diese möchte man nicht mit halbgaren Lösungen zumüllen. Sollte Google natürlich kein Interesse an Business Lösungen haben, ist der Schritt aber völlig nachvollziehbar.

    Ich persönlich bin mit Hangouts zufrieden und empfehle es weiter. Ich persönlich finde es angenehm, dass ich jetzt auch Kurznachrichten über den PC versenden kann. Hangouts läuft seit einer Woche und mit dem Delay von Nachrichten kann ich leben. Ich muss nicht in Echtzeit leben.

  2. Klar ist es für mich noch besser als WhatsApp, aber das ist ja kein Kriterium, an dem man sich messen sollte. Zumindest nicht wenn man gute Produkte machen will.

  3. Das Produkt ist gut. Es hat nur noch Kinderkrankheiten. Es tut seinen Dienst. Nicht immer zu 100% Zufriedenheit, aber noch im Rahmen. Ich denke so wie das Produkt derzeit ist, kann man es ohne zu überlegen weiter empfehlen. Und ich finde es besser als Googletalk.

    1. EDIT: aber das ist meine Meinung als einfacher User. Wenn man damit mehr machen möchte, kann ich das Produkt nicht beurteilen

  4. It’s hard to believe that a previous awesome software has been replaced by a crappy new one. I used Google Talk as a primary IM messenger since 2006/2007, and I loved using it on my previous Android 2.3 smartphone.

    I didn’t like very much Hangouts on Gmail, so I rather use GTalk instead of it due some problems you’d mentioned. I really hope the service will receive many updates. The status notification, by example, has been already fixed as for November 18.

    However, in my current Android 4.3 device (a Google Nexus 4), there’s no way for installing Google Talk, and everytime someone contact me via either Hangouts or GTalk, I only receive the notification on my cellphone about 20 or 30 minutes after sending.

    This is not instantaneous, and is far beyond of the ridiculous sense. Google is not a startup, how could they act as amateurs on the Hangouts development?

    1. I don’t know… Even though many people have a google account, I wasn’t very successful in making people use Talk. I now stopped pushing in Googles direction and moved towards Threema. Some features are still missing, but they are coming slowly.

  5. Hangouts *really* sucks because:

    1) Cannot resize the freak’n window.. No resize tab at bottom right. Only possible to resize from the top-left.. WTF?

    2) Circles are impossibly small to see person.. Especially useless when trying to identify friends you search for.

    3) Cannot easily remove someone.. Settings is *not* where I expect to find delete!

    4) Order of names it totally arbitrary (perhaps date based, but then that’s subject to daily reordering)! Cannot customize order.

    5) No way to confirm it is the right person when adding someone via search.

    6) Very annoyingly leaves a little tab *above* the start bar, and *also* floating. This is extremely frustrating when trying to do screen captures or records. Must quit the whole thing entirely.

    7) I really don’t like how things „swoosh“ in the from the side, but whatever. Can this at least be an option??

    8) No voice only chats.

    9) Broken chat history, as already mentioned.

    10) Next to search bar is a drop-down button. Open it, and it has *nothing to do* with search. Instead, totally unrelated options like Invites, Blocked people, etc.

    11) Where is a freak’n normal menu when you want one. The „Hangouts“ part of the main window is non-functional.

    12) No easy way to change your profile options and settings without going to the online site.

    13) Poor indicators of friends‘ status, and last chat status. What does grey’ed out mean? What does bold mean?

    14) Very limited person info. How about making their phone # and/or email easily accessible?

    15) So, I understand the need for a cross-platform UI on mobile, but could we at least have some shortcuts with right-click on PCs? For example, delete, block, notify..

    Google Hangouts is possible the worst chat I’ve ever used.. period.
    And, making it 100x worse, is that you are *forced* to use it now instead of Google Talk — and pestered if you don’t.. This alone is making me seriously consider deleting my google circles/hangouts account altogether.

    Please feel free to share this rant widely..

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