Google is ending the messaging service within Google Maps

Google is killing a messaging service! This is some other “Google Business Messaging” service, basically an instant messaging client built into Google Maps. If you were to search for a participating business on Google Maps or Google Search on a phone, the main row of buttons on the place card would say something like “Call,” “Chat,” “Directions,” and “Website.” That “Chat” button is the service we are talking about. It would launch a full messaging interface within the Google Maps app and businesses would be expected to use it for customer service purposes. Google’s deeply dysfunctional messaging strategy might lead people to joke about a theoretical “Google Maps messaging” service, but it already exists and has been around for years, and now they’re shutting it down.

Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz was the first to spot the closing emails being sent to participating companies. Google has two different support articles for closing “Google Business Profile Chat” and “Google Business Messages”, which appear to be the same thing under different names. On July 15, 2024, the ability to start a new chat will be disabled and on July 31, 2024, both services will be closed. Google allows businesses to download past chat conversations through Google Takeout.

Google’s Maps messaging service was ranked 16th in our mammoth History of Google Messaging article. The feature has gone through a lot of changes, so it’s a little difficult to follow. The Google Maps messaging button was launched in 2017, when it would have been called “Google My Business Chat.” This wasn’t its own service yet: the messaging button would launch your SMS app or launch another dead Google messaging product, Google Allo.

The original SMS option was the easy way out for small businesses with a single store, but SMS is tied to a single physical phone. If you are a larger company and want to take on the task of providing customer service in multiple stores, at the scale of Google Maps, it will be a multi-person job. The Google Allo backend (which seems to have been the driving force behind creating this project in the first place) would allow you to classify messages for multiple people. However, Allo was 2.5 years into its lifespan when this feature was released, so things would have to change shortly before Allo’s 2019 shutdown date.

Knowing that Allo’s death announcement was still a month away, Google began turning Maps into its own standalone messaging service in November 2018. Previously, it always released an external app (either SMS or Allo), but with this update In 2018, Maps got its own in-app instant messaging user interface. “Messages” became a top-level item in the navigation drawer (it would later move to “updates”) and a third-party app was no longer necessary. On the business side, a new “Google My Business” app would be the new customer service interface for all of these messages. The shutdown of Allo in 2019 disabled the ability to use SMS for small businesses and everything needed to use this Google My Business app now. Maps was officially a new messaging service. Google also created the “Business Messaging API,” so large businesses could connect Maps messaging to some kind of customer management app.

It doesn’t look like Google is going to replace business messaging with anything in the near future, so the chat buttons on Google Maps and search will be gone. In Google’s endless pantheon of messaging solutions, Google’s developer page also mentions an “RCS Business Messaging” platform that will launch the Google Messaging app. However, this service does not appear to be integrated into any existing Google products and is not mentioned as an alternative in Google’s closure announcement. Google only suggests that businesses “redirect customers to their alternative communication channels,” but those links won’t get premium placement on Google products.

Enterprise messaging is a fairly well-established market and large technology companies with competent Messaging strategies are involved in some way. On iOS, there is Messages for Business based on Apple’s iMessage, which also has a chat button layout in Apple Maps. Meta has both WhatsApp Business Messaging and Facebook Messenger’s Meta Business Messaging. There are also independent companies like Twilio.

Google Listing Image / Ron Amadeo

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