It's a meme at this point: Every two years, Google announces yet another new messaging platform that will finally give Android its iMessage competitor. Those of you hoping Allo might break this cycle will be disappointed today, as The Verge has revealed that Google is pausing development for Allo and switching focus to the existing Android Messages app, paired with an investment in branding RCS messaging into something called "Chat."
For the full details, you can read The Verge's quite long and detailed coverage, but the short version is that Allo didn't quite get the reception Google hoped for (surprise!). With Google investing so heavily into carrier RCS deployment, and with Android Messages being such a runaway success—over 100 million account installations on the Play Store, at the time of writing—Google has decided the best thing it can do is to bring all its focus together into a single service and product.
We've been interested in the future of RCS and Google's involvement in it for years, ever since it picked up a little company called Jibe. The new "Chat" isn't a separate app or service, it's just RCS by a new name. (Also, it isn't to be confused with Hangouts Chat, which is a separate thing.) It'll all be a part of Android Messages, together with the web client we previously discovered.
A preview of the Android Messages web client. Image from The Verge.
The Verge claims that Allo isn't dead. Google is just "pausing investment" in it while its developers are pushed over into Android Messages to work on Chat/RCS. Google still has plans to support Allo in the future. Though, given how Google has continued to support its previous messaging solutions, like Hangouts, you might want to grab a screenshot of your favorite stickers now. But if this is the end for Allo, it is a bit of a sad story. After all these years, Google couldn't put together a messaging platform that was able to compete with Facebook or Apple.
With SMS being such an unfortunately persistent standard for communications in the US, RCS and Android Messages are in the perfect position to provide a seamless transition here for the Chat/RCS standards. In the end, it may even be a better solution than apps like Allo, but Google will still have to get the carriers on board with Chat if it wants to succeed. Right now, it allegedly has 55 carriers, 11 OEMs, and a direct competitor (Microsoft) all pledging to use it.
Google admits that Chat won't give the company the same degree of control that Apple has with iMessage, and users probably won't see the same privacy protections (i.e., strong encryption) that other popular messaging services provide. Taken together, the all-out investment in Chat/RCS at the expense of Allo has the feeling of a gamble, especially viewed in the frame of a decade's abandoned messaging attempts. Hopefully, the odds for Chat/RCS via Android Messages are better than they were for Allo.