Facebook just rubbed one of Google’s biggest missed opportunities in its face

David Marcus
David Marcus Facebook

Using Facebook Messenger instead of one of Google’s chat apps is a “no-brainer,” David Marcus, Facebook’s VP of messaging products, said
during a Q&A session at TechCrunch’s Disrupt Conference
on Monday.
While Facebook’s chat app, Messenger, has more than 1 billion monthly users, Google lacks a super-popular messaging app and Marcus highlighted that missed opportunity on stage:

“If you look at the SMS experience on Android for instance, it’s kind of a no-brainer to want to use Messenger, because the experience is so much better than traditional SMS clients on Android — you can do so much more,” Marcus said.

He has a point. If you buy an Android phone, there’s a chance it comes with one or all of a handful different messaging apps for SMS messaging: your carrier’s custom chat app, your phone maker’s custom app, Google Hangouts for GChats and SMS, and Google Messenger. Because Android is an open-source platform, Google doesn’t have the same control over the default SMS app like Apple does with iMessage.

Yet on top of that, neither the Android-only Messenger or the multi-platform Hangouts are showstoppers. Facebook Messenger has had a well-publicised stream of new features, but these Google products haven’t had any significant updates recently.

Instead, Google decided to dedicate resources to launching two new messaging apps — Duo for video chatting and Allo, a “smart” chat app that should be hitting app stores soon.

Allo integrates in-line suggestions (like for recipes or places to eat) and could stop the existential threat of bots and other smart assistants pulling people off Google search. But even if Allo is as amazing as Google hyped it to be in May, it won’t be able to integrate SMS messages like Hangouts, a spokesperson tells us, which could make its adoption curve steeper. And Duo has already seen sagging rankings in both the iOS and Play Stores. Although Google is ostensibly still working on another messaging initiative (a next-generation SMS standard that requires carrier cooperation) that’s still a ways-away.

Meanwhile, Facebook Messenger has been trying to swoop in. Earlier this year, it started allowing Android users to get their SMS text messages through its app, in a bid to become the main way you text on Android phones.

The most important thing a messaging app needs to be successful, Marcus points out, is reach. Ideally, you’ll be able to communicate with everyone you want in one place. Marcus’s larger point was that Messenger will only truly succeed when it’s on every smartphone but by dragging Google’s messaging apps, he got a good burn in in the meantime. Plus, unless Allo becomes wildly popular when it launches in the next few weeks, he has a point about Messenger being the best option for cross-OS communication on Android.

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