Google Allo

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Google Allo
Google Allo Logo.png
Google Allo.jpg
A screenshot of Allo, showing the "smart reply" feature
Developer(s) Google
Initial release September 21, 2016; 14 months ago (2016-09-21)
Stable release(s) [±]
Android 25.0.023 / December 15, 2017; 2 days ago (2017-12-15)[1]
iOS 24.0 / December 4, 2017; 13 days ago (2017-12-04)[2]
Development status Active
Operating system
Available in English, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish[3]
Type Instant messaging
License Proprietary
Website allo.google.com

Google Allo is an instant messaging mobile app developed by Google for the Android and iOS mobile operating systems, with a web client available on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. It was announced at Google's developer conference on May 18, 2016, and released on September 21, 2016.

The app uses phone numbers as identifiers, and allows users to exchange messages, files, voice notes and images, it includes a virtual assistant, a feature that generates automatic reply suggestions, and an optional encrypted mode. Users can resize messages and add doodles and stickers on images before sending them.

Before launch, Google touted strong privacy in the app, with particular emphasis on messages stored "transiently and in non-identifiable form". However, at launch, privacy was significantly rolled back, with Google now keeping logs of messages indefinitely (or until the user deletes messages) in an effort to improve the app's "smart reply" feature.

History[edit]

Allo was announced at Google's developer conference on May 18, 2016,[4] at the time, Google said that it would release Allo in summer 2016.[5] Google launched the app on September 21, 2016,[6] during the unveiling of Google's Pixel smartphone in October 2016, it announced that Allo will be pre-installed on the Pixel phones, along with its sister app, Google Duo.[7] In February 2017, a tweet by Google's Vice President of Communications Nick Fox showed a screenshot of Allo running as a web app, along with the words: "Still in early development, but coming to a desktop near you..."[8][9][10] A further tweet from Fox in May stated that the web client was "a month or two from public release."[11][12]

In August, Google Allo for web went live for Android users using Google Chrome,[13] while Firefox, Opera and iOS support was rolled out in October.[14]

Features[edit]

The Whisper Shout feature being demonstrated at Google I/O 2016

Allo is based on phone numbers, not by social media or email accounts.[15] Allo's "Smart reply" feature uses Google's machine learning technology to suggest a reply to the last message, which can be selected from a few options, the feature also analyzes images sent to the user in order to suggest responses. Similar to the smart reply feature seen in Google's Inbox app, it learns from the user's behaviour to adapt its suggestions over time.[16] Allo is one of the apps that support Google Assistant, a virtual assistant that allows users to ask questions and receive answers in a two-way conversational nature.[6] Additional features include "Whisper Shout", which allows the user to increase or decrease the size of a message to represent volume,[17] and the ability to draw on photos before sending them.[6]

In November 2016, Google introduced Smart Smiley, a feature that suggests emojis and stickers depending on the mood of the message. Smart Smiley also shows suggestions when starting a new conversation; in addition, background themes for chats were added at the same time.[18]

In March 2017 a GIF library was added in the compose bar, as well as easier one-tap access to the Google Assistant, and animated emoji.[19] Also in March was an update that let Android users send various types of files, including PDFs, documents, APKs, ZIP archives, and MP3 tracks through Allo.[20][21][22] In May, the app was updated to allow users to backup and restore chats, added an Incognito mode for group chats, and introduced previews for links.[23][24] Later the same month, Fast Company reported that Google updated Allo to add cartoon stickers on selfie photos, powered by artificial intelligence technology capable of producing "563 quadrillion face" animations.[25][26][27] Complementing selfie stickers, Google also launched "selfie clips", short looped videos of the user's face;[28][29] in June, the ability to make Google Duo video or audio calls directly from Allo chats was included.[30] The following month saw message reactions being added, where users can tap on a heart below messages received.[31] An in-chat translation feature appeared to some users in version 17 and rolled out to all in version 18, the latter of which was released in September.[32] Group chat controls, which can be switched on for new group chats, were added in November 2017;[33] in version 25, automatic transcriptions for audio messages appeared, though this can be disabled in settings.[34]

Incognito mode[edit]

Incognito mode is an optional mode that includes expiring chats, private notifications, and end-to-end encryption, for encryption, the app uses the Signal Protocol.[35] Incognito mode does not include any Smart Reply or Google Assistant features. When the user receives a sticker from a sticker pack that they do not already have installed on their device, the app will retrieve the sticker from Google’s servers using security, but not end-to-end encryption.[36]

Reception[edit]

Virtual assistant[edit]

PC World's Mark Hachman gave a favorable review of Allo's virtual assistant, saying that it was a "step up on Cortana and Siri".[37]

Optional encryption[edit]

Following Allo's introduction at Google I/O, Google was criticized by security experts and privacy advocates for having the end-to-end encryption turned off by default, which they argue leaves the app open to government surveillance.[35][38] Edward Snowden, whistleblower and former NSA contractor, criticized the app on Twitter, saying that "Google's decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default in its new #Allo chat app is dangerous, and makes it unsafe."[38][39]

Thai Duong, a co-lead of Google's product security team, wrote in a personal blog post that he would push for the addition of a setting that would let users have the encryption on all the time.[40] However, he later retracted the statement.[41]

Message retention[edit]

When Allo was first introduced, its developers talked about storing non-incognito messages only "transiently and in non-identifiable form",[42][5] at launch, Google revealed that they would instead store all non-incognito messages indefinitely (or until the user deleted them) in order to improve the built in "smart reply" feature.[42] Russell Brandom of The Verge commented that "the decision will have significant consequences for law enforcement access to Allo messages. By default, Allo messages will now be accessible to lawful warrant requests, the same as message data in Gmail and Hangouts".[42]

Other privacy issues[edit]

Reports surfaced in March 2017 that a bug with the Google Assistant in the Allo app would accidentally share results in a conversation from an individual's search history, despite the search not being previously mentioned by the other chat participant or previously in the conversation. Google acknowledge the issue, and stated that it had been fixed.[43][44]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Google Allo". APKMirror. Android Police. December 15, 2017. Retrieved December 16, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Google Allo". App Store. Apple Inc. December 4, 2017. Retrieved December 5, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Change your Google Assistant language". Google Allo Help. Google. Retrieved December 5, 2017. 
  4. ^ Lunden, Ingrid (May 18, 2016). "Google debuts Allo, an AI-based chat app using its new assistant bot, smart replies and more". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Bohn, Dieter (May 18, 2016). "Allo is a messaging app with Google built right in". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c Gibbs, Samuel (September 21, 2016). "Google launches WhatsApp competitor Allo – with Google Assistant". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  7. ^ Rakowski, Brian (October 4, 2016). "Introducing Pixel, our new phone made by Google". The Keyword Google Blog. Google. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  8. ^ Fox, Nick (February 24, 2017). "Still in early development, but coming to a desktop near you... #GoogleAllo #SneakPeek". Twitter. Retrieved March 19, 2017. 
  9. ^ Bohn, Dieter (February 23, 2017). "Google's Allo chat app is finally coming to desktop — eventually". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 19, 2017. 
  10. ^ Lawler, Richard (February 24, 2017). "Google Allo's desktop client is in the works". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved March 19, 2017. 
  11. ^ Fox, Nick (May 12, 2017). "I'm using web client every day and loving it . Team is working hard to get it out ASAP, but we're still a month or two from public release". Twitter. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  12. ^ Whitwam, Ryan (May 17, 2017). "The Allo web client is still a month or two from release, says Google's Nick Fox". Android Police. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  13. ^ Hall, Stephen (August 15, 2017). "Google Allo for web rolling out, and you can try it now w/ Allo 16 for Android [Gallery]". 9to5Google. 9to5. Retrieved August 16, 2017. 
  14. ^ Whitwam, Ryan (October 3, 2017). "Allo for web adds support for Firefox, Opera, and iOS". Android Police. Retrieved October 4, 2017. 
  15. ^ Geuss, Megan (May 18, 2016). "Google's Allo and Duo are 2 communication apps based on your phone number". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  16. ^ Lee, Nicole (May 19, 2016). "Please don't send me Smart Replies". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  17. ^ Beres, Damon (May 18, 2016). "Google Debuts A New Texting App You'll Actually Want To Use". The Huffington Post. AOL. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  18. ^ Hall, Stephen (November 16, 2016). "Google Allo gets expected background themes, emoji suggestions, Fantastic Beasts stickers". 9to5Google. 9to5. Retrieved September 10, 2017. 
  19. ^ Schoon, Ben (March 2, 2017). "Google Allo picks up improved Assistant integration, animated emoji on Android and iOS". 9to5Google. 9to5. Retrieved September 12, 2017. 
  20. ^ Queiroz, Mario (March 22, 2017). "Google for Brazil: Building a more inclusive internet for everyone, everywhere". The Keyword Google Blog. Google. Retrieved March 22, 2017. 
  21. ^ Erlick, Nikki (March 22, 2017). "Google announces app updates to Allo, Duo, and Photos". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 22, 2017. 
  22. ^ Sholtz, Matthew (March 22, 2017). "Google Allo Android users everywhere can now share documents and other files [APK Download]". Android Police. Retrieved March 23, 2017. 
  23. ^ Hager, Ryne (May 4, 2017). "[Update: APK Download] Chat backups, link previews, and group incognito are coming to Google Allo today". Android Police. Retrieved May 4, 2017. 
  24. ^ Singleton, Micah (May 4, 2017). "Google is still updating Allo, adding link previews, chat backups, and group incognito mode". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved May 4, 2017. 
  25. ^ Kuang, Cliff (May 11, 2017). "Exclusive: Google's New AI Tool Turns Your Selfies Into Emoji". Fast Company. Mansueto Ventures. Retrieved May 17, 2017. 
  26. ^ Gartenberg, Chaim (May 11, 2017). "Google Allo can now turn your selfies into cartoon stickers". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved May 17, 2017. 
  27. ^ Seppala, Timothy J. (May 11, 2017). "Google' Allo chat app crafts custom emoji using your selfies". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved May 17, 2017. 
  28. ^ Seppala, Timothy J. (May 31, 2017). "Google's latest addition to Allo is custom GIFs of your face". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved June 1, 2017. 
  29. ^ Toombs, Cody (May 31, 2017). "Allo v12 adds animated selfie clips and a redesigned compose bar, prepares to add support for the 'enter' button, and more [APK Teardown]". Android Police. Retrieved June 1, 2017. 
  30. ^ Hager, Ryne (June 19, 2017). "[Update: APK Download] You can initiate a Duo call from Allo starting today". Android Police. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  31. ^ Whitwam, Ryan (July 17, 2017). "Google updates Allo to v14 with message reactions [APK Download]". Android Police. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  32. ^ Toombs, Cody (September 7, 2017). "Allo's in-chat translation feature is rolling out to everybody, v18 also brings adaptive icons [APK Download]". Android Police. Retrieved September 9, 2017. 
  33. ^ Li, Abner (November 15, 2017). "Google Allo adds Selfie clips and group chat controls to kick out, ban members". 9to5Google. Retrieved November 17, 2017. 
  34. ^ Toombs, Cody (December 14, 2017). "Allo v25 enables automatic transcriptions for audio messages, may hint at threaded conversations [APK Teardown]". Android Police. Retrieved December 16, 2017. 
  35. ^ a b Greenberg, Andy (May 18, 2016). "With Allo and Duo, Google Finally Encrypts Conversations End-to-End". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  36. ^ "Chat in private with Incognito mode". Google Allo Help. Google. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  37. ^ Hachman, Mark (September 22, 2016). "Hands-on: Google Assistant's Allo chatbot outdoes Cortana, Siri as your digital pal". PC World. International Data Group. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  38. ^ a b Tung, Liam (May 20, 2016). "NSA whistleblower Snowden: Google Allo without default encryption is 'dangerous'". ZDNet. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  39. ^ Hackett, Robert (May 21, 2016). "Here's Why Privacy Savants Are Blasting Google Allo". Fortune. Time Inc. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  40. ^ Conger, Kate (May 19, 2016). "Google engineer says he'll push for default end-to-end encryption in Allo". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  41. ^ Goodin, Dan (May 20, 2016). "Incensing critics, Google engineer ends push for crypto-only setting in Allo". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  42. ^ a b c Brandom, Russell (September 21, 2016). "Google backs off on previously announced Allo privacy feature". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  43. ^ Townsend, Tess (March 13, 2017). "Google's Allo app can reveal to your friends what you've searched". Recode. Vox Media. Retrieved March 14, 2017. 
  44. ^ Sulleyman, Aatif (March 14, 2017). "Google can randomly share your search history with friends through its new messaging app". The Independent. Retrieved March 14, 2017.