Home Android The maddeningly familiar march of Google’s Gmail-Meet marriage

The maddeningly familiar march of Google’s Gmail-Meet marriage


If you use Gmail from your Android phone, brace yourself: You’re in for an obnoxious surprise.

There’s a chance you’ve already gotten it, in fact — and if you haven’t, rest assured: You will soon. The surprise is the arrival of a new on-screen menu that lives in your inbox and takes up a fair portion of the vertical scrolling space there. Its sole purpose? Why, putting a prominent link to Google Meet in your face at all times, of course.

Yes, really — an entire screen-width toolbar that’s plastered onto your inbox simply to hold two oversized options: Mail and Meet. Like so much of what we’ve experienced in this exhausting year, it almost feels more like satire than reality, like something someone on the internet would’ve come up with as a joke (“Hey, didja see how Google’s gonna try to force us all to use Meet next?! LOL!~”).

Unfortunately, though, this change is all too real.


Now, there’s good news here, if you haven’t yet realized it: You can opt out of that monstrosity and reclaim the space in your mobile inbox. (Open up the Gmail app’s settings, tap the name of your account, then scroll down ’til you see the “Show the Meet tab for video calling” option and uncheck the box alongside it.) But that’s almost beside the point. The real issue here is how unabashedly Google is shoving its videoconferencing service down our throats — and how eerily familiar that effort feels.

Let me set the stage here and see if you sense the same parallel I do: Google is trying to make its way into an area where there’s already a dominant, de-facto-standard player — a player whose name is basically synonymous with the medium, to the point where it’s frequently used as a common noun or verb. Google desperately wants to catch up and claim its place in that market, despite the other player’s dominance. And so it’s aggressively working to push its service anywhere it can, regardless of the effect that has on its other apps.

Little by little, you’ll see signs of the new service showing up in some unnecessary-seeming and irksome areas — with gigantic buttons in places you don’t need ’em, on-by-default integrations in services where you weren’t expecting ’em, and gigantic on-screen interfaces in apps where you absolutely don’t want ’em. Even if you can turn many of those things off, most people won’t realize that’s possible — and the onus will fall upon you, as the user, to actively seek out such options and play this game of ongoing virtual whack-a-mole.

I just described what’s happening with Google Meet right now. I also just described exactly what happened with Google+ seven years ago.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.


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