Is Google's Plan to Combine Hangouts, Messenger, & Talk Really a Good Idea?

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Speaking at Google I/O yesterday afternoon, Google Product Manager Nikhyl Singhal indicated that Google will be combining several of its messaging services into a singular messenger. According to Janko Roettgers of GigaOM, Google will be consolidating Google+ Messenger, Google Talk, and Google+ Hangouts in order to create a uniform service across all Google products.

“We have done an incredibly poor job servicing our users here," Singhal said before revealing that Google has been working on combining all of these currently separate chat services. True, Google Talk and Google+ both offer instant messaging and video chat with the same set of contacts, largely due to Google overlapping the two services earlier this year (explaining why some of your Google+ contacts unexpectedly started showing up in your Gmail chat contacts). Additionally, Google+ Hangouts is a primarily Skype-like video-centric chat or conferencing tool but there's also an instant messaging feature in this product. So yeah, there is a lot of redundancy in Google's multiple communication services but is merging them into one product really that good of an idea?

As mentioned, the contact lists from Google+ and Google Talk were unified earlier this year, which, personally, took me by surprise. From a business vantage, I understand why the decision to eliminate redundancy across products makes complete, logical sense. However, that only makes sense if you assume that everybody is using Google+ Messenger, Google Talk, and Google Hangouts for the same purposes. Personally, Google+ and Google+ Hangouts are things I primarily use for work whereas my Google Talk contacts are largely made up of personal friends who I chat with from home. In essence, there's a difference between professional and personal uses for these products. Combining all three of them would negate that distinction and possibly complicate the way some people use these different services.

Perhaps allowing users of these Google communication products to have the option to combine the three services instead of simply opting-in the combination of all three would be the best result, thus leaving it up to Google's users as to whether or not this is a necessary or even useful change. Grandfathering all users into changes they might not want is a practice that's notoriously common among all tech companies, so it'd be nice if, for once, Google decided to let its users to decide for themselves whether it'd be advantagous to combine Talk, Messenger, and Hangouts.

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