This may sound surprising, but Google has a long history of being a staunch supporter of IM interoperability.
At its peak, the Google Talk client could be used to reach users on Skype, Facebook, AIM, Yahoo, and many other networks. That was the golden age of IM interoperability—it was awesome! While it lasted.
While it lasted, the whole thing worked thanks to an open standard called XMPP.
Google Talk was instrumental in launching the XMPP protocol on the trajectory of becoming the SMTP of chat—a true universal protocol. Unfortunately, unlike SMTP, XMPP never reached escape velocity.
Because in 2013, things soured.
Here’s Larry Page, Google’s then-CEO, talking about Google’s standing offer to provide IM interop forever and lamenting the lack of industry progress in that area due to “focus on negativity and on zero-sum games” by other companies, namely Microsoft:
The day before, Microsoft announced one-way interoperability with Google Talk (and Facebook Messenger!) from outlook.com. Today, something this generous seems pronouncedly improbable, but in 2013 it really pissed off Larry Page as being way too selfish.
Within a few days, Google announced the plan to replace Google Talk with Google+ Hangouts and kill XMPP support.
Less than a year later, in April of 2014, Facebook announced its plan to discontinue XMPP support as well.
Skype began its brief affair with XMPP in 2011, shortly before Microsoft acquired the company and rewired Skype’s P2P innards with MSNP 14, ripping out XMPP in the process.
As the memories and promises of the golden age loom over the messengers as a silent rebuke to the idea of a brighter future, we’re left to speculate on why the Big Three turned their back on interoperability.
We’ll never know for sure, but we’ve got some theories.
In August 2012, Twitter introduced the world to the idea of “a more consistent experience” by announcing the impending end of third-party Twitter applications. Other companies appear to have enthusiastically taken this as a signal to follow suit, into the land of control freakdom. But, if we consider the competitiveness of the game and the pot size, it’s hard to fault them.
Around this time, iMessage was gaining mad traction, and it definitely wasn’t helping the interoperability cause by being the working definition of “not interoperable with anything and never will be”.
Blaming XMPP’s shortcomings for everyone dropping interoperability seems too generous: it’s just a protocol, it could have been replaced with a better-designed, web-friendly, open alternative.
But, as the AC adapter industry would undoubtedly concur, where there’s disagreement on standards, there’s a business opportunity.
Today, I’m happy to announce the release of Sameroom support for Google Hangouts, which means that now you can
- Connect Hangouts and Skype
- Connect Hangouts and Facebook
- Connect Hangouts and HipChat
- Connect Hangouts and Slack
- Connect Hangouts and Campfire
- Connect Hangouts and Fleep
- Connect Hangouts and IRC (certain networks)
- Connect Hangouts and Flowdock
- Connect Hangouts and Gitter
(More providers coming, check back in for news.)
Never thought you’d see GitHub notifications in Google Chat? Well, now you can! (Connect a room in Slack/HipChat/Fleep/Flowdock to GitHub, then connect that room to a conversation in Hangouts).
We’re working on a series of educational posts and videos for this blog that will come with step-by-step instructions for using Google Hangouts with Sameroom—keep an eye on our Twitter account for updates.