Google, king of seemingly a thousand different messaging and communications efforts, has announced a rare move today: It’s not adding yet another new service or chat-adjacent feature but whittling the list down by one. Google Meet and Duo have had overlapping video call functionality for years, and the company has decided it’s time to bring the two together under the Meet name, fulfilling the long-rumored merger between the two services. Curiously, the actual path of this merger will favor the Duo app.
For a short bit of history, Duo was announced at Google I/O 2016 alongside the since-defunct messaging service Allo, whose short history was an example of Google’s often late-to-the-party and half-baked efforts to bring its own spin on an existing product category. Where Allo failed, Duo succeeded, at least in part due to the many integrations he picked up that made video calling so simple. When something’s easy to use, you use it, and making a video call on Duo is as easy as calling someone on the phone given its dialer integrations.
On the other hand, Google Meet originated as Hangouts Meet, a videoconferencing service built into Hangouts (which is also now dead, see a pattern?) and broken out into its own thing in 2020. While Hangouts Meet wasn’t widely used, Google Meet rose to popularity as a Google-service-integrated alternative to Zoom during the pandemic (and making it free to use didn’t hurt either).
Google Meet on a phone, computer, and smart display.
Today’s annoucement of a merger was rumored as far back as 2020. The idea was reportedly abandoned in 2021, with Google said to be shifting its focus more on Google Meet. A recent teardown earlier this year indicated that Duo was set to pick up some features from Google Meet, in hindsight telegraphing that Google hadn’t fully given up on the idea, and work was continuing.
According to today’s announcement, made over on the Google Workspace Updates blog, Google is merging Duo and Meet into one app. It’s a change that will presumably apply to Google and Meet in other places as well, like on smart displays and the web. “All the Google Meet features,” including scheduled meetings, in-meeting chat, content sharing, real-time closed captions, and an improved call size limit, will make their way into the Duo app in the coming weeks, together Meet’s platform and service integrations with other Google products.
Later this year, the Duo app will be renamed Google Meet. According to The Verge, which was given exclusive information regarding today’s announcement, the old app will be renamed “Meet Original” before being deprecated.
A more Duo-like interface for Google Meet.
One of Google’s directors claims that it’s sticking with the Duo app rather than merging things into the Meet app because, according to The Verge, “the Duo mobile app had a lot of sophistication, especially under the hood,” but there’s likely a much more important reason Google chose it: user base.
While Meet’s branding is apparently more valuable or useful to Google (likely since it can charge for its use via Workspace), Meet only has a somewhere over a hundred million installs on the Play Store, while Duo has over five billion since it’s a built-in app on many phones and likely a required part of Google’s services integration and licensing. That means keeping things bundled into Duo will put the new unified Meet on more customers’ phones, and the company has been obsessive about promoting Meet — in 2020, the Gmail app was also Frustratingly bloated to include Google Meet in a change that was generally panned by customers.
On the Web, Google will apparently use Meet as the base for the new unified system.
Google’s not exactly “killing” Duo with this change, but the features that lived in two different apps will soon be available in just one. For a company that’s often criticized for duplicating his own efforts and randomly killing projects, opting to consolidate the two so neatly and cleanly might indicate a shift in strategy.