In August 2017, Google gave YouTube a chat feature. This week, in August 2019, the company said it would take the option away. Google could have figured out the feature was useless sooner — or not built it at all.

YouTube chose to skip its official blog and instead announced the news on two different support pages. “After September 18th, you’ll no longer be able to send messages directly on YouTube. Some parts of this feature may go away before this date, such as sharing a video as a message.”

The feature unsurprisingly failed to gain traction. You can tell we were skeptical just from the headline in our initial coverage: “YouTube adds mobile chat, because Google doesn’t have enough messaging apps.”

Testing YouTube chat in 2017

Above: Testing YouTube chat in 2017

Here is the pertinent part:

YouTube’s chat interface does almost everything your existing messaging apps already do, and all of those already do a lot more. As such, it’s a messaging app that nobody will switch to. On the bright side, unlike Allo and Duo, YouTube chat doesn’t have to build an audience from scratch — YouTube already sees 1.5 billion monthly logged-in users.

That may be enough to make this chat/sharing tab a minor success. Nobody will ditch Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for YouTube, but as long as people watch more videos, Google will probably deem it a useful addition.

Narrator: It was not a minor success. Google did not deem it a useful addition.

I was too generous. Much like Allo before it, YouTube chat didn’t stand a chance.

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It’s crazy that it took Google two full years to figure out nobody was using YouTube messages. It’s even crazier that the feature was developed in the first place. If it was obvious to everyone that there was no reasonable use case for YouTube chat, why wasn’t it clear to YouTube?

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



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