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Google applications: Deeper integration between Voice, Hangouts

Gina Narcisi

Google recently announced the integration of Google Voice into Google Hangouts, part of an ongoing initiative to unify Google applications for a more blended social experience.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google also dropped the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP)

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for open instant messaging (IM) and presence communications within the Hangouts platform. XMPP was designed to provide a way for IM and presence platforms to interoperate and federate together. Google's shift away from the open standard could signify that messaging interoperability may not be as high on enterprises' wish lists as vendors may have previously thought.

Google is trying to roll its users into Hangouts for a more collaborative environment, instead of having to live within Gmail, Voice or other separate Google Applications, said Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Mokena, Ill.-based Nemertes Research Group Inc. "We see a lot of companies that use Google for mail and its chat client [that] are trying to figure out how to integrate those applications with unified communications [UC]," he said.

Google+, a social platform that combines UC applications like voice, video and chat, has not won over users. By incorporating voice and messaging applications into Hangouts, Google may compete better with social platforms that many enterprises use for business purposes, like Facebook. "Google is … using Hangouts as a lure to draw people into Google+," said Dave Michels, CEO at TalkingPointz Research.

Google applications: Moving away from 'open' standards

Google designed Hangouts as the future of Google Voice, and making and receiving phone calls is just the beginning phase for the platform, said Iska Hain, spokesperson for Google. Users will now have the ability to place calls in Hangouts through Gmail, Google+ and the Chrome Hangouts plug-in, and the platform will replace Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, and the first Google+ Hangouts video chat application.

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Converging disparate applications required Google to rebuild, rather than converge, separate UC applications. Google determined that the use of XMPP previous Google applications also opened the door for security issues, Hain said. "The openness of Google Talk [with XMPP] led to bad user experiences like spam attacks, and limited us in terms of supporting the various forms of communication that we're now able to achieve with Hangouts," she said.

Google was an early proponent of interoperability with XMPP, but other IM and presence tools vendors did not follow its lead. "Over the past several years, we've worked to bring the world an open messaging system, but no company has been willing to join our efforts," Hain said. "Google Talk was the only major network to support federation … it's evident that the rest of the industry is not moving to embrace this open system."

While XMPP allows for IM and presence tools to integrate chat with other vendor's tools, it's not the only way. Enterprises can also use middleware vendors like NextPlane or Esnatech to achieve federation between communication tools, Lazar said.

Is the industry moving toward proprietary messaging tools?

IBM, Microsoft and other vendors achieve interoperability with a protocol based on Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions called SIMPLE , or SIP. But no tool or platform had taken advantage of what XMPP could really enable when IM and presence tools first came on the market, said Melanie Turek, vice president of research at San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc.

While XMPP does enable openness around messaging and presence platforms, the industry has never truly embraced IM federation. "Although chat is an important business communication mode, businesses do have other federated tools for communication -- like email," she said. "[Federation] between IM and presence tools may not happen at all if it hasn't happened by now," she said.

By moving away from XMPP, Google may be trying to come up with its own protocol that it can control and add features to, Nemertes' Lazar said. "A lot of vendors aren't really excited about interoperability because they want to own everything," he said. "If you look at what Google has done with voice and video, its fine with sharing and making the protocol open sourced, but ultimately, they want to own their own collaboration protocol."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.


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