Google this week launched Allo for web. Ugh, that’s not right. Let me try again. Google this week launched Allo for Chrome. Hmm, still not quite accurate. Google this week launched Allo for Chrome for Android. Gah, for the love of god, I’ve only made it worse.

Google this week launched Allo for Chrome desktop, but only if you’re already using Allo on your Android phone, which has to be charged and online.

There we go.



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It’s like Google knew that this launch wouldn’t be successful, so instead of issuing a blog post like for previous Allo releases and updates, the company simply sent a tweet. Each line adds a new laughable level of limitation:

Google has been hard at work improving Allo ever since it arrived for Android and iOS in September 2016. But the fact that it’s taken almost a year to release a web version that doesn’t even work outside of Chrome is disappointing.

I’ve criticized Google’s messaging strategy before, including as recently as last week when I noted YouTube has joined the company’s list of chat apps, on top of Android Messages, Allo, Duo, Hangouts Chat, and Hangouts Meet. This week’s Allo release isn’t helping the confusing situation.

Even Googlers aren’t impressed that it only works on Chrome:

For the record, here’s what happens when you try another browser:

Chrome lock-in isn’t the only issue. All this “web app” really does is mirror your phone. It took 11 months for Google to come up with this. To add insult to injury, everyone at Google who I’ve seen defend this launch notes that “WhatsApp does the same thing!”

First off, WhatsApp Web works on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Edge. Secondly, the argument that WhatsApp Web requires WhatsApp running on your phone just like Allo for Chrome does is laughably weak.

WhatsApp has 1 billion daily active users and 1.3 billion monthly active users. That means two things. WhatsApp can afford to make a web app that relies on its mobile counterpart, and WhatsApp can’t afford to re-architect its messaging system to create something better.

Google created Allo from scratch. That’s the whole pitch: Building a modern messaging app from the ground up. And yet, all Allo manages to do is limit who wants to, and who even can, use it.

Come on, Google. Have Allo’s low user numbers not taught you anything?

ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.

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