Google kills off Allo to focus on Messages

Google has said it will bring all of Allo's best features to Messages, with the former to be killed off in March 2019.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Google has confirmed that it is killing off its smart messaging app Allo in an effort to put more focus on Messages.

Allo will continue working until March 2019, with users having the option to export their conversation history into Messages, for which it added web usage in June.

"Earlier this year, we paused investment in Allo and brought some of its most-loved features -- like Smart Reply, GIFs, and desktop support -- into Messages. Given Messages' continued momentum, we've decided to stop supporting Allo to focus on Messages," Google VP of Consumer Communications Products Matt Klainer said in a blog post.

"We've learned a lot from Allo, particularly what's possible when you incorporate machine-learning features, like the Google Assistant, into messaging," he added, saying that more machine-learning features will likewise be incorporated into Google's video-calling app Duo.

According to Klainer, it is all part of Google's focus of "moving toward a simpler communications experience".

"We want every single Android device to have a great default messaging experience. We've been working closely with the mobile industry to upgrade SMS so that people around the world can more easily enjoy group chats, share high-res photos, and get read receipts on any Android device," he said.

He added that more than 175 million people are now using Messages on Android phones every month, thanks to Google's partnerships with 40 carriers and device manufacturers.

Klainer also announced plans to allow users of its Hangouts Chat program to add people from outside their organisation to a chat, such as clients, vendors, and partners.

"By refocusing on Messages and Duo for consumers and Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet for team collaboration, we're focused on delivering a simpler and more unified communications experience," he concluded.

Allo had first been announced in May 2016, with Google beginning to roll out the smart messaging service in September that year.

Allo was Google's first messaging app to include suggested "smart" replies that learn over time from user behaviour, and supported sending resized text, emojis, photos, and sketches, as well as working with standard text messages across both Android and iOS devices.

"We train it across what users are saying and build these clusters that have related meanings to them," an Allo engineer said at the time.

"Because we have these clusters, we know that 'haha' and 'smiley' and 'LOL' are connected, or 'five minutes' and 'later' are connected."

While Google said Allo chats were all encrypted, Edward Snowden warned people against using the app at the time of its release, calling it "Google Surveillance".

Read also: Why is Google so bad at innovation? 44 dead products and counting

The decision to shut down Allo comes two months after Google also closed down its failed social network Google+ after its engineers found an API bug that could have exposed private profile data for more than 500,000 users.

Google had discovered and patched the bug in March 2018.

"We believe it occurred after launch as a result of the API's interaction with a subsequent Google+ code change," the company said, adding that it found "no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any profile data was misused".

Google+ will close down for good in August 2019, with users able to download or migrate their data before then.

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