The long-rumored Google Duo and Google Meet merger is happening. Google officially confirmed the move on June 1, explaining in a blog post that the goal is to create a “one-stop video communication service” and that the Duo brand will disappear in favor of Google Meet.
While the Google Duo brand is dying, it looks like the Duo code base will live on as the basis for the new Google Meet. Google says “the existing Duo video calling features are here to stay” and that “in the coming weeks, we’re adding all Google Meet features to the Duo app, so users can easily schedule a meeting.” video at a time that suits everyone, or continue to use video calls to instantly connect with a person or group. Later this year, we’ll be renaming the Duo app to Google Meet, our unique video communication service on Google that’s available to everyone at no cost.
The move comes after Google unified its communications teams under google workspace vp and gm Javier Soltero (the author of the Google blog post) in 2020. Google did not specify which products are unified, but he to have to means that Google Hangouts, Google Meet, Google Chat, Google Messages, Google Duo and Google Voice will all live under one roof.
Here’s a quick recap of Google’s long history of communication apps: Google Duo was launched in 2016 as a standalone video chat with a “companion” messaging app called “Google Allo”. Google had just failed in its bid to buy WhatsApp two years earlier (Facebook made the $22 billion acquisition instead), so it turned on its photocopiers for Google Allo, which was a direct WhatsApp clone. It used SMS phone number identification instead of a Google account, and it was limited to one device at a time, following the non-Googley way WhatsApp works.
Launching two communication apps at the same time seemed odd, but the idea was that Google could introduce Duo as a companion to WhatsApp as well as Allo. Normally, you’d expect a company to include video chat functionality in its new messaging app, like Hangouts or Facebook Messenger or (eventually) WhatsApp. Presumably, however, Google knew it couldn’t compete with the WhatsApp juggernaut in chat, so a standalone video app was created, with a Whatsapp clone to go along with it. WhatsApp users can stay on WhatsApp for chatting, but they can add this Duo app to their arsenal.
WhatsApp didn’t have video chat features at the time, and Duo was rushed to market (it launched before Allo) to beat WhatsApps impending video rollout. Both Allo and Duo launched first in India – WhatsApps strongest market – and Duo was built from the ground up to provide video chat over the slowest internet connections. The strategy worked, and while Allo died after two and a half years, Duo was able to live on. Google has never shared active user stats to my knowledge, but Duo became a default Android app in 2016, so it has over 5 billion downloads on the play store, like every other Android app by default.
While Duo was all about Google’s WhatsApp envy, Google Meet is a manifestation of Google Zoom envy. Technically, Meet was launched in 2017 as the G Suite team’s enterprise video conferencing product, but it was shelved for years. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and Zoom usage skyrocketed, Google Meet was drafted as Google’s answer.