GOOGLE HAS begun the slow, pained rollout of its new text-chat tool Allo with a web app for Chrome users.
It's hard to know where to start with this as there's just so much wrong and we usually love everything Google does, but let's try and unpack it.
Firstly, Allo, first announced at Google I/O in 2015, is one of six apps that Google now offers that could easily be done by giving Hangouts, itself the successor to Google Talk, a facelift.
Allo is designed to replace Hangouts as a social tool while Hangouts becomes a more business focused offering. Problem is that it hasn't taken off in quite the way it should, and fell out of the top 500 Google apps very quickly.
The new web app for desktop requires focusing on a single window, making it lousy for multitasking (unless you know about building separate windows and shortcuts and such). Additionally, it uses the anchoring of an Android phone - it's basically the same thing as Whatsapp does - no phone, no Whatsapp.
Users with Allo for Android can scan a barcode from the web app site to bring up the web interface. Ewww, ewww and a million times ewwww. There's no need for it - Hangouts works perfectly well without all this QR code nonsense.
Allo offers integration with Google Assistant, which can be made to chime in like Clippy and offer to book those cinema tickets you're discussing. Edward Snowden described this as "dangerous" and "unsafe".
It doesn't offer video calling, though. For that, you need Duo (which doesn't have a web interface yet, of course) or Hangouts. Or Hangouts Meet. Or... never mind.
In short, we're not entirely sure what Google is trying to achieve with this caper. If they seriously want customers to switch from Hangouts (or more importantly from WhatsApp and VomitSkype) then they need to come up with a better effort than this. And perhaps they will in good time. But for right now, this appears to be a token effort that really achieves little and doesn't do it very well. If you want, you can go to https://allo.google.com/web µ
C3-PO, R2-D2, BB-8 and other Androids
Helpful cyber vigilante gets short changed by customer services
...you know, now it's less confusing...
Firm will no longer provide updates for its first Android mobe