The Duo app will soon get all of Meet’s features, including scheduled calls, and then, once the transition is complete, change its name to Google Meet. At that point, the current Meet app will simply launch the new Duo/Meet app. It’s a bit complicated, but to be fair, moving millions of users to the new platform was always going to be a heavy lift.
All of this isn’t a major surprise, given that Google has already sunset Allo, Duo’s chat-focused sibling. Both launched to a bit of confusion in 2016, as Google already offered a bunch of text and video chat options at the time. Now Google is finally consolidating most of these under the Chat and Meet brands.
Javier Soltero, Google’s GM and VP, told me that this move has been in the making for quite a while. Back in 2020, the company brought the Duo and Meet teams together with the goal of collapsing these two products into one. “We think it’s incredibly important and strategically critical for Google to be able to serve the full breadth of the video market, from consumer use all the way to organizational and commercial use with a common service platform and a product whose user experience is guided by the same sense of simplicity and intuitiveness,” he explained.
Dave Citron, the director of product management for these products, also noted that as the pandemic hit, both Duo and Meet suddenly saw their usage increase rapidly and found a new kind of product-market fit. That led the teams to look for ways to iterate more quickly. “The great thing about bringing the teams together is that we’ve brought some of the best of both products to each other, strengthened the foundation and … it’s now fairly straightforward because of the work we’ve done over the last few years to take that final step and actually bring them fully together,” Citron explained.
Over the course of the last few years, Google actually brought a number of Duo features to Meet, and now the Duo app will soon get all of Meet’s features, including scheduled meetings. This will happen over the next few weeks, though Soltero and Citron noted that Google will take a very measured approach here and monitor its metrics for potential issues and slow the process down to fix bugs, if necessary.
It’s no secret that, originally, Duo and Allo were meant to become the consumer-centric versions of the more business-focused Google Chat and Meet. But that’s clearly not what consumers wanted — especially in the case of Allo — and if anything, the pandemic helped collapse the difference between people’s work and private lives even faster than anybody could have anticipated. Google’s colleagues at Microsoft saw the writing on the wall when they launched a personal version of Teams.
Citron stressed that the overall idea here is to not leave any users behind. Duo’s users should be able to continue to use the app — even if the name changes — just like before. If they don’t want to schedule meetings, they won’t have to (but both Citron and Soltero noted that more consumers than ever are now also scheduling personal meetings). Likewise, Meet users will be able to continue to use the app for their scheduled meetings but they will now also gain the option to have ad hoc calls with their contacts without having to go through the process of setting up a call. And those of you who are using Duo on a Nest Hub Max or similar smart speaker (or even a TV) today will be able to continue doing so going forward, too.
In a way, it’s almost surprising that it took Google this long, especially given that at its core, both Duo and Meet use the same open WebRTC standard. If anything, the existence of Duo in parallel with Meet created a bit of confusion among consumers, especially as Google opened up Meet to everybody during the pandemic. Making users choose between two different tools for related use cases isn’t something that’s easy to explain and Soltero admitted as much.
“Part of this is also motivated by something that we’ve always known as true and that is: it doesn’t matter how many tools you have — and communication tools in particular — if you’re not great at allowing people to make the right choices for the right circumstance — then you’re not really making the world a better place, right?… People just still in this day and age — and certainly through the course of the pandemic — are not necessarily better at understanding intuitively what tool to use for what circumstance,” he said. Google, he argued, has the ability to approach this problem by giving users that choice based on how addressable somebody is at a given time and to look people up using phone numbers or email addresses, for example.
Some of this may feel like Google is looking for reasons for this move after the fact, but most importantly, this chapter of Google’s video chat confusion is finally coming to an end, and to me, a combined Meet/Duo app simply makes sense and may get me to use the platform more often for ad hoc meetings. Now for Google Hangouts…