Isn’t Google too big to fail?

Yes, Google has been the pioneer and a leading force in many online products & services we use every day. Let’s see how deep the roots are.

  • Its search engine is basically a monopoly.
  • Its browser Chrome, powers around two-thirds of internet traffic
  • Its streaming platform, Youtube, clocks 5 billion views every single day.
  • Its OS, Android, runs on more than 70% of mobile devices that are currently active in the world.
  • Its Maps app is the most used navigation system in the whole world.
  • And most importantly, its ad business is the vital cog of digital ads on the whole internet, and it accounts for a whopping 80% of Google’s( Alphabet’s) revenue.

And they still failed?

Yes, and what’s even more peculiar is Google has everything at its disposal to build a really good social networking/messaging platform. It has the largest personal demographic data tailor-made for driving social media algorithms. It has location access if you’ve used maps, it has your contacts list if you have an Android phone and/or synced to your Google account, which is also tied to Chrome, YouTube, Google Drive, Gmail, and the list goes on. Despite all this, they have tried and got burned each time.

So what went wrong?

Let’s look at each of these apps and see for ourselves.

Google+ After experimenting with Orkut, Google Wave & Google Buzz they finally launched Google Plus in 2011, but it never gained much traction despite Google vehemently pushing it. This is because they’re just late to the game itself, as Facebook and Twitter have been there for 7 & 5 years respectively. They tried to emulate what Facebook did ages ago and were never able to catch up. It was finally shut down in 2019.

Hangouts This is Google’s take on the social chat app for mobile. Hangouts, which was part of Google+ as a chat service, has been respawned into a separate app in 2013. But again, it was late. By then Whatsapp, WeChat, iMessage, and Messenger already are well established in the mobile chat space. Now even though Hangouts still exists, it will be shut down by Nov 22, to make way for Google Chat for mobile chats, and Google Meet for Video Conferencing.

Allo This is Google’s another try at a social chat app built from the ground up for instant messaging along with its sister app Duo, meant for video calling, launched in 2016. This came pre-installed on Pixel devices, Google’s very own smartphone brand. But it was eventually shut down in 2019, owing to a lack of adoption.

Duo Like Allo, this is the new social app, but for video calling. This prioritized VoIP & video calling on mobile devices. Duo also came pre-installed on Pixel phones. This also didn’t become successful, but now it’s being merged into the Meet app to become the only VC app from Google.

Google Chat This is Google’s final(as of now) attempt to have one singular app for chat. So the Hangouts branding is slowly fading out, and this will be the chat app for mobile chats. They also revived Spaces for collaborative chat rooms and integrated it into the Chat app.

Google Meet This is Google’s take on Video Conferencing, especially meant to rival Zoom during the pandemic. So basically Hangouts meet was rebranded as Google Meet. This has become moderately successful as an alternative to Zoom, but only as needed. But as of Aug ’22, the Duo app is being merged into Meet, while this original Meet is being phased out.

Google Spaces This is Google’s competitor app for Slack, the workspace collaboration app for enterprises. But just like with other apps, Spaces has been too late for this segment. By this time, Microsoft has already built, launched, and expanded its Teams platform. So it was shut down in 2017.

And finally, Google has the standard Messages app, that comes on every Android device for SMS. Google enabled encryption and the RCS protocol aimed to make SMS better with rich text, and multimedia sharing. Google has been pushing this for a while now and they upped the ante through a marketing campaign aimed at Apple’s iMessage, which uses its own protocol limited just to iPhones, to adopt RCS.

So why they failed so many times

In most cases, they are just late to enter the segment where there are already established players out there with a large user base already built. And Google didn’t help its case, by continuously killing products quite often. So each time they killed an app, they lost the entire userbase that adopted the app. So if they start anew, they had to build the userbase from zero again. Also, they also had multiple apps just doing the same thing simultaneously.