Earlier today, 9to5Google pointed to us on a blog post from Google that announced a new feature for Google Maps: messaging. When it rolls out to iPhone and Android users, there will be a new "message button" on the left pane that will let you know the companies you find in Google Maps.
A company that wants to participate must use Google's "My Business" verification system and its associated app to send and receive messages. That app was just reworked, like Adweek Notes – Make it more of a one-stop shop for small businesses to update their information to Google and chat with customers.
I'll just tell you right now that I have several contradictory feelings about this new feature and we will explore them together.
First: This seems like a genuinely useful feature. More than once I just wanted to ask a shop or restaurant a quick question that was not covered by their website and would be willing to wait for the answer. I have listened to a colleague over the past few days decelerated Call local companies one by one to find out if they still have respiratory protection in stock following the wilderness here in northern California. Texting can theoretically be more comfortable for all involved. It is a little less discontinuing for the shop staff, easier for the customer. Net-net: nice.
But secondly, we'll make the simple joke that Google may not seem to stop launching new messaging platforms while it's primary messaging platform strategy is still a mess? Yes we will. Hangouts are dead for consumers and Allo is paused and RCS Chat has still not been launched here in the United States across all major carriers. Neither AT & T or Verizon will commit to a launch date. (I asked them both a week.)
I'm taking RCS not only for the cheap shot, but also because it's a good example of how business messaging quickly becomes a big business. It is part of the plan for RCS Chat, it is within Facebook Messenger and iMessage, and it is a major part of WhatsApp's ultimate business plan. So it's meaningful that Google would like to be in this space and it's sincere that it's a little meaningful to put it inside Maps instead of another messaging program. As Google notes, it keeps your business tax messages separate from your personal messages.
So let's leave messages aside and give Google this. It can not drive harder on business messages in Android messages, as it can not claim RCS because it ceded control of its message platform to its carrier partners. Entering business messages in Google Maps is a good solution in this regard. And in any case, this messaging feature already existed and the news here is simply that you can access it on Google Maps.
But that leads me to my third feeling: what's happening with Google Maps? It gets overloaded with so many features and design changes that it gets harder and harder to just get directions in it. There is group planning, there is a social-esque "follow" button for local businesses you can share your ETA, there is a redesigned section "Explore", and there's almost no way to get that ugly thing to show you a crossroad near your destination without three minutes of desperate squeeze and zoom and zoom back.
Google Maps starts to feel like Facebook's Big Blue App: Doing too many things, most of which you do not remember – much less find. https://t.co/lE3dQy6itn
– Dieter Bohn (@backlon) October 25, 2018
It gets blown up, that's what I'm saying. It's Google's equivalent to Big Blue, as Facebook nickname is its flagship application that makes thousands of things over countless strange nooks and crannies. It's like Google wants to kill Yelp once and for all, but can not let anyone notice how difficult it's trying to make it just slowly roll these things to Google Maps instead.
This has been my feelings that Google adds message functionality to maps, which generally seems like a pretty good feature. Thank you for experiencing them with me.