VoIP and the "Online" Status
The New Google Hangouts and Lack of Information
Like most people who use the Internet on a regular basis, I love Google. My entire ecosystem revolves around the various services they provide. Often, they revamp a product either visually or functionally and this can take some getting used to. Most of the time however it's not a big deal. The recent changes to their communication app however indicate a worrying trend whether we're talking about textbased messages or VoIP.
GTalk has been the staple of every Google and Gmail user right from the beginning. As a chat application, it didn't have much to differentiate it from all of the others out there. The integration with an exceptional service like Google voice definitely had its uses though. In the recent I/O conference of 2013, they introduced a new product called "Hangouts". This was meant to replace the regular GTalk application that was badly in need of a visual refresh and some additional functionality. With tight integration into Google+ and inbuilt support for video calls, it should have been an exceptionally well-received piece of software.
Unfortunately for some unfathomable reason, Google decided to downplay the importance of the online status message. This simple omission has created a significant backlash in the community of Google users.
We Need "Status" Data
When it comes to Internet-based communication, we need to know whether or not a person is online at any given point of time. Why you ask? Because we can provide that data and it helps us make better decisions! Some people contend that when it comes to using the regular PSTN phone system or SMS, we don't need to know whether a person is available or not. We just go ahead and send whatever we have to. But this is a kind of reverse thinking. The normal telephone system and SMS are old technologies that were simply unable to provide the sophisticated presence data that the Internet can. Just because we got used to an inferior model doesn't mean that we hail it is the pinnacle of communications design!
Like it or not, people change their chatting habits depending on whether or not they know the other person can respond immediately. Often you simply don't want to bother sending a message to a person if they're not available. Say you want to invite them to a video chat – you have no interest in sending that message in the first place if they're off-line, so why bother?
Business VoIP network solutions constantly use presence information to let other employees know if someone is busy or available. This allows the streamlining of communications that every SIP VoIP system worth its salt provides. So why is Google downplaying its importance? One can only hope that the outraged cries of its millions of users will force it to wake up and take this seriously.