The long-rumored Google Duo and Google Meet fusion actually happens. Google officially confirmed the move on June 1, explaining in a blog post that the goal is to create a “single video communication service” and that the Duo brand will disappear in favor of Google Meet.
While the Google Duo brand is dying, it sounds like the Duo codebase will live on as the basis of the new Google Meet. Google says that “existing Duo video calling features are here to stay” and that “in the coming weeks we’ll be adding all the Google Meet features to the Duo app so users can easily schedule a video meeting at a time that works for everyone , or continue using video calls to instantly connect with an individual or group. Later this year, we will be renaming the Duo app to Google Meet, our single cross-Google video communication service available to anyone at no cost. “
The move comes after Google united its communication teams under Google Workspace VP and GM Javier Soltero (author of Google’s blog post) in 2020. Google has not clarified which products are compatible, but it should means that Google Hangouts, Google Meet, Google Chat, Google Messages, Google Duo and Google Voice will all live under one roof.
Here is a quick summary of long story by Google’s Communication Apps: Google Duo was launched in 2016 as a standalone video chat app with a “companion” messaging app called “Google Allo”. Google had just failed in its attempt to buy WhatsApp two years earlier (Facebook made $ 22 billion acquisition instead), so it turned on its photocopiers for Google Allo, which was a direct WhatsApp clone. It used SMS-based phone number identification instead of a Google Account, and it was limited to one device at a time, after non-Googley way that WhatsApp works.
Launching two communication apps at the same time seemed strange, but the idea was that Google could pitch the Duo as a companion to WhatsApp as well as Allo. Usually a company is expected to include video chat features in its new messaging app – like Hangouts or Facebook Messenger or (eventually) WhatsApp. Presumably, though, Google knew it could not compete with the WhatsApp juggernaut in chat, so a standalone video app was created with a Whatsapp clone for it. WhatsApp users can stay on WhatsApp for chat, but they can add this Duo app to their arsenal.
WhatsApp did not have video chat features at the time, and the Duo was rushed to market (it was launched before Allo) to beat WhatsApps impending video rollout. Both Allo and Duo were first launched in India – WhatsApp’s strongest market – and Duo was built from scratch to deliver video chat over the slowest internet connections. The strategy worked, and while Allo died after two and a half years, the Duo was able to live on. As far as I know, Google has never shared statistics on active users, but it became Duo a standard Android app in 2016, so it has more than 5 billion Play Store downloads, just like any other standard Android app.
While Duo was about Google’s WhatsApp envy, Google Meet is a manifestation of Google’s Zoom envy. Technically, Meet launched in 2017 as a business video conferencing product from the G Suite team, but it was burned back for years. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and Zoom usage exploded, Google Meet was drafted as Google’s response.