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What if Google acquired WhatsApp instead of Facebook?

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Google-whatsapp-meme

When Meta (formerly Facebook) took over WhatsApp a decade ago, it brought its own character to the app, both positive and negative. Among the tech titans, Google also has a certain reputation, especially when messaging services are in question. To put it mildly, let’s just say that a goldfish could easily score big for staying focused on one thing for longer than Google.



So, what if Google acquired WhatsApp instead of Facebook? Would WhatsApp have become the face of Google’s messaging efforts and given it the much-needed direction? I have a rather specific view of this in my mind:


Google would’ve killed WhatsApp for good within a couple of years. End of story.

Just kidding (not really).


Rename it. Okay, just once more…

This is the last time, promise

Google is notorious for killing its apps and services that once looked super promising — Stadia is one solid example from recent memory, but there is no dearth of stuff to dig through. And when Google isn’t scrapping its services prematurely, you’ll find it renaming them for the nth time, sometimes to finally settle on their original name after jumping through several hoops. Remember Google Wallet? Just last week, Google rechristened everything Bard to Gemini, which is also the name of its LLM. Sure, it isn’t confusing at all.

Google always comes full circle. Always.


You don’t expect a company as large as Google to be so fickle with its approach, but unfortunately, that’s how it is. Given this capricious track record, Google would’ve given WhatsApp ten different names by now. During its decluttering phase, Google could’ve even renamed it to Google Chat only to realize that the app lost its identity and reverted to calling it WhatsApp. Even ‘Google WhatsApp’ could’ve been a thing, aligning with the company’s recent inclination to make its branding prominent. But that still wouldn’t be the worst part.

Do you recall the era when Google became determined to give all its services new logos — and they all ended up looking just a slightly different combination of red, yellow, green, and blue? Take a look at the image below. How easy is it to tell these Google services apart with their app names removed? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say it’s downright infuriating. Now imagine a WhatsApp logo along these lines instead of the recognizable green, bubble-shaped one right now. WhatsApp would’ve looked exactly like every other Google app inside out, losing its individuality.


all-Google-apps-logo-comparison

You gotta be a Google expert to tell them apart.

However, all that still requires giving attention to a product. Google is known for frantically dropping everything as soon as it finds something trendy — something everybody else is doing. No other product has felt as abandoned as Assistant after Google threw all its weight behind developing next-gen Gemini LLM. WhatsApp could have been treated the same way — or worse, got many of its features deprecated on Google’s whim. Say, Google started pushing users to use Meet for video calls instead of WhatsApp.

Google already maintains your detailed profile, so with WhatsApp data added to the mix, you would officially have many reasons to be petrified about your privacy.


Going one step below the surface, you’ll unearth a lot more problems that don’t seem too far from reality. Google could’ve made you link your WhatsApp account with your Google account at some point. In turn, this could’ve allowed the company to use your ad ID to serve you ads based on your WhatsApp metadata because Meta isn’t the only one that’s stealthily tracking everything you do online. Google already maintains your detailed profile, so with WhatsApp data added to the mix, you would officially have many reasons to be petrified about your privacy.

Man proposes, Google disposes

Unless…

google-pixel-8-pro-review-12-1


Away from its volatile personality, Google has an opposite, more reliable side as well, with rock-solid foundational services — think of Gmail and YouTube. If WhatsApp survived a full decade in Google’s hands, it would’ve joined this elite club. That’s basically like graduating to the next level of becoming a core product, which comes with a lot of perks.

While an unbroken experience would be one, Google would’ve included a bunch of meaningful integrations for its other services, like direct Google Drive sharing and deeper controls with Assistant. The cloud chat backup that currently happens separately would’ve been integrated into the device backup itself to make restoring chats far more seamless when you get yourself one of the top Android phones. Moreover, WhatsApp is currently severely marred by a flood of spam and fraud that Google could’ve handled better thanks to its experience with Gmail. But unfortunately, we’re currently at the mercy of Meta, which has mostly left us fending for ourselves.


WhatsApp stories

Another drawback of Meta is its eagerness to stuff WhatsApp with trivial features that it picked up from other services like stories, channels, payment, and even shopping. These features deviate from WhatsApp’s core functionality and hallmark of being simple. Google doesn’t typically overstuff its apps to make them do everything at once, but it would still put the latest toy it’s been playing with in your face — Gemini lately — like it did when it integrated all of its Workspace apps into Gmail.

Hey Google, send Zuck a WhatsApp message

It would be too naive to think that, even after all this, WhatsApp would be the only messaging app under Google’s umbrella. Even now, when Google Messages with RCS is the default face of Google’s messaging efforts, you can still send texts in Google Chat, Photos, and even Google Pay. It is so silly that I bet even Sundar Pichai must joke about it when other Googlers aren’t listening.


However, Meta is running WhatsApp — and pretty successfully at that — which is still better than WhatsApp lying dead in Google’s graveyard.

However, Meta is running WhatsApp — and pretty successfully at that — which is still better than WhatsApp lying dead in Google’s graveyard. Facebook understands the social media game much better than Google, whose attention span is short to a fault. It was a good thing that Meta took over WhatsApp and not Google, and we don’t say such things about Meta often.

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