Hands-On with Google Messages for Web

Posted on June 21, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Chrome OS, Chromebook, Cloud, Google, Mobile, Windows, Windows 10 with 40 Comments

This week, Google announced that it was bringing its Android Messages app to the web. I finally gained access, and I’m curious now why this didn’t happen years ago.

Set up is simple enough: Open the Android Messages app on your phone, open the More options (“…”) menu, and choose the “Messages for web” item. If you don’t see this item, wait a few days: Google is rolling it out to users over a period of about a week. (How it is doing so is unclear: My Messages app was never updated, according to the Play Store, but this item wasn’t there yesterday and it’s there now.)

In the screen that appears, you’ll be prompted to scan a QR code that you’ll find on this web page, which you will need to first load on the PC or Chromebook you wish to use to send and receive SMS/MMS messages.

Once you’ve done that, Messages for Web will load in a browser tab. If you’re using Chrome, which you should be, I recommend saving this as a desktop shortcut (In Chrome, “Customize and control Google Chrome > Create shortcut; be sure to select the “Open as window” option too). That way, you can use it like any other app in Windows/Chrome OS and pin it to your taskbar for easy access.

It mostly works as you’d expect. You can send text messages directly from the web app as you would on your phone. And these messages can include “stickers, emoji, and attached images,” according to Google.

I tried each. Because I hate Brad.

Naturally, you can receive text messages too, and hold conversations normally on the web as you would on your phone. There are even native-looking pop-up notifications when text messages arrive.

Messages for Web seems to support the most useful features from the mobile app. This includes Smart Replies, which appear as little bubbles with suggestions based on what you received. And you can mute conversations from the web, which might be particularly helpful when you’re working.

Performance seems good, with near-instantaneous deliver/send on both mobile and web. This is one of the things that really impressed me about Air Text, which is a third-party text messaging integration application for Windows, too. But Messages for Web has the advantage of being from Google—I generally prefer this kind of thing to come from the platform maker—plus it looks and works exactly like the mobile app. Familiarity wins.

This one looks like a winner. And in a rare move, I have something new to pin to the taskbar on every PC I use.


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Comments (41)

41 responses to “Hands-On with Google Messages for Web”

  1. Daekar

    This is the first thing from Google I've been looking forward to in a while now, and it will promptly take up a place in my "cloud services" folder in Firefox if it works well. I agree with you, it should have happened years ago.

    I love that you torment Brad. ;-)

  2. Bruce.Cassidy

    I use Facebook messenger for all of my messaging now. It works across all devices: work PC, home PC and phone. It doesn't replicate SMS to the web though, so this may be an option.

    • RossNWirth

      In reply to Bruce.Cassidy:

      Likewise - FB Messenger is my default, but some people keep using SMS (even though everyone is on FB)

      On Android you can use the Messenger app for SMS, but it doesn't provide SMS on the web - which would be great! In the meantime this makes a lot of sense as an alternative, as I can have SMS everywhere!

  3. nevadah

    I opened the app to see if I had the menu item and I did not. While the app was open, suddenly a box appeared at the bottom of the screen inviting me to try messaging on the web. I tapped yes and was able to go through the process. The menu item is now there. Clearly it's dynamic and not tied to an update of the app.

  4. miguelgigante

    I received an update for the Messages app yesterday, but I was surprised to see that there still is not a  “Messages for web” option anywhere in the menu. Guess I'll need to wait for another app update before it becomes available.

  5. TomKer

    Will this work with Chrome for iPad?

  6. kingbuzzo

    Errmmm...my Skype & Windows Phone has had this feature for over a year...I guess that makes me a leper

  7. mikeghou

    Making Microsoft even more irrelevant in the consumer space. They've been farting around for years trying to get Skype and or Cortana to do this. I've never gotten it work reliably on my laptop. Boom! this just works.

  8. BigM72

    For me and most people I know, all messages are WhatsApp, no SMS in use really.

  9. harmjr

    I wonder how many times Brad has sent that emoji.

  10. fearofweapons

    Could someone explain to me how this is different / better than linking Cortana on your phone and W10 device? Is it because it's Google or because it's not Microsoft or are there technical reasons around features and functionality? I genuinely do not know hence the question.

  11. JustMe

    Not sure I quite understand why this is a big deal. I can certainly understand the usefullness of it, but it isnt exactly groundbreaking.

    Blackberry (yes, Blackberry) had something quite similar with Blackberry Blend.

  12. chadhassler

    I LOL’d hard at Brad’s response!

    iMessage is one of the things that keeps me on Mac/iOS. This looks like it could easily replace it.

  13. RossNWirth

    Paul - a while ago you talked about moving from your GSuite account (@thurrott.com) to GMail account - any tips/tricks for doing that and moving history from one to the other?

    (e.g. Maps, Photos, Music - which is now grandfathered in at lower pricing I think)

    Which account are you using on your phone (GSuite or GMail) where this is working?

  14. Jorge Garcia

    This is great news to me. Long overdue IMO. Now they just need to route all Allo, Hangouts, etc. messages through this service, slowly phasing them all out...except Duo, which should be integrated somehow with this.

  15. brduffy

    Yay! I have been using MightyText and it works mostly. But it is sometimes slow to connect and work with my phone. Just updated Android Messages but no "Messages for Web" item yet.

  16. wolters

    I like it...I actually have my relay app (Join, like Pushbullet) turned off for now and using this...it works well enough for now.

  17. Albatross

    Does one need to make Android Messages the default messaging app on their android device for this to work? I would hate to leave Textra.

    Update. One does not have to use Android Messages as their default messaging app. Yeah!

  18. eljay1987

    Oddly though messages for web has a dark theme option but the Android app doesn't which is pretty annoying.

  19. Stooks

    HOLD THE PHONE!!!! This not a PWA??????????

    Looks pretty much like iMessage on the Mac.

    Good move for users of Android messaging. The issues is that messaging on Android has always been a confusing mixed message (Google norm) of what app to use and people end up using all kinds of different apps, Hangouts, Alo, facebook, WhatsApp, etc..etc. So while this is a really good move it might only work if you everyone you message uses it.

    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to Stooks:

      Meh. It doesn’t need to be a PWA, though I’m a bit confused why it isn’t. It would make a wonderful PWA demo.

      I love Messages on my Mac, and wish I could use it in Windows and Linux. It’s one large reason why I’m considering Parallels again.

      Your criticism of Googles messaging is about half right though. They do have a bunch of apps, though I have a feeling most of those were “10% time” projects. Kinda weird to feature two separate ones in the same conference though. ;)

      To be fair, iOS has similar issues as far as “many, many messengers” goes. Granted, Apple only has the one default, but I stil get a mixture of messages in Messages, Slack, Skype, Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger.

      I’m probably forgetting a few. I really wish there were a way to combine it all. It is a mess.

      • Bill Russell

        In reply to curtisspendlove:

        iMessage was simply able to take off and there it was - it was a no brainer for the iPhone user, and Apple cleverly has never brought it to android. Google always had the harder job, being "late" to the party and having a larger more fragmented base. They have the task of bringing SMS into the "future" as RCS, for which they have to get all the world's carriers on board. It does look like its happening though. I just switched back from Textra to Messages for this web Messages for now and awaiting RCS (but don't really care that much). Its also pulling me away from my part time usage of an iPhone to just my Pixel, as I don't use a Mac at work and therefore can't use iMessage, even though I only use IMessage in SMS mode. I wish Apple would allow 3rd party SMS and Messages app on iPhone.

    • behindmyscreen

      In reply to Stooks:

      um....it uses SMS.....so....yeah....

  20. HellcatM

    Now if Microsoft would done this with Skype we could have had this already and maybe more people would be using Skype as a messenger. A lot of people I mention Skype to don't really know anything about it so they don't use it. So now with Skype you still have to pay to make calls (does anyone do this?), and I only know one person who uses Skype period (I guess its mostly used for podcast live shows now like with TWIT and GFQ, but how much longer will that last?). I personally like Skype, I like it better than KIK and Whatsapp which people are using a lot more and if they would have opened it up to be able to use it as a messenger and added being able to send and receive SMS messages from Windows to Android and ios this would have given it some life.

  21. innitrichie

    I would have jumped at this a couple months ago, but I no longer need it since I have Cortana sending all my messages to my PC. And I can reply to any messages I want within W10 notifications too. I'm very happy with this setup.

  22. timothyhuber

    Messages was updated yesterday but I still don't have the option. I loved texting via Hangouts with Project Fi and have been using Pulse for a while. I prefer the native platform option if it works well, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

    • ind1g0

      In reply to timothyhuber:

      I'm a Fi user and this seemed great at first, but really this is just a web app that syncs messages to/from your phone. Your phone still needs to be on and connected to a cellular network for this to work. The advantage of Fi & hangouts is true separation from the phone and the service. If my phone is lost, stolen, broke or out of battery I can sign into hangouts on any other phone/tablet/PC and make all the calls and messages that I need. I have used this many times in the past.

      Why Fi is beyond anyone else that you are basically virtualizing your phone number to work anywhere in Google services and not tied to a physical device and cellular connection like a normal plan from all the big carriers. This is also the same thing that Google Voice uses have been enjoying for years as well.

      However, I wish google would update Hangouts with with some of the more modern features (emoji, stickers, GIFs, etc) that messages is getting or convert messages to work with Project FI.

  23. Nadawan

    I have been using this for only two days and I'm already liking it. It's fast and reliable on my Win10RS3 desktop, Surface Book, and Moto Z2 Force. Before this, I was using Skype for cross-device SMS the last 2 years (my phone was a Lumia 950 then). It did work but so many hiccups and sync issues. Poor implementation, bad experience of what should have been basic technology. I don't see any use for Skype anymore. Seriously Microsoft, you blew it again. MS consumer products that matter to us the most continue to falter. Only the investors are happy.

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