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Google, Mio Team up for Chat Interoperability

Buried within all the Google AI announcements at Google Next was an important point: Chat interop. Google Chat is no longer an island. This was made possible because Google teamed up with Mio. While most of the industry talks about silo-busting, Mio actually does it. 

Mio helps enterprise teams using services like Zoom Chat, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Cisco’s Webex talk to each other. The company is backed by several investors, including both Cisco and Zoom, as well as Y Combinator, Khosla Ventures, and many other notable firms. 

Google announced that its new integration with Mio will allow its Chat users to interact with users on Microsoft Teams, Slack, Webex, and Zoom Team Chat.

Once set up by administrators, the organization’s Chat users can interact with colleagues on these different systems  seamlessly from their Google Chat client. In other words, with the Mio integration, a Google Chat user can search for a colleague within Chat, then send them a message – and the colleague can receive it and chat via Slack, Teams, etc. The integration supports direct messages, spaces, and group chats, emojis, GIFs, reactions, threaded messages, as well as secure file sharing, editing, and deleting messages. No new desktop software is needed, nor does the interoperability require training. The chat apps all behave as you would expect. 

Mio fully synchronizes messages between different chat platforms. All the basic chat content is supported, including threaded replies, emoji reactions, @mentions, file and image uploads, editing and deleting messages, and more.

“Together with Mio, we can extend the reach of Google Chat and empower users to collaborate seamlessly across different platforms,” said Ilya Brown, Google Workspace vice president of product management.

The Importance of Interoperability

Several studies show the value of interoperability of various technologies, including messaging. According to a 2022 Accenture study, “companies with highly interoperable technologies achieve six times higher revenue growth.” Accenture found that enterprises which allocated an additional 2-4% more of IT and functional budgets to applications that boosted interoperability saw a tangible bump in revenue.

Additionally, Mio’s 2019 workplace messaging report found that 91% of businesses use at least two messaging apps, with 3.3 apps being the average number used by each respondent.

Phone numbers, fax numbers, and email were all designed for interoperability – someone could send a message in Gmail that would be received by someone else using Outlook. So-called modern messaging apps are islands, and some have toll bridges. For example, you can’t use WhatsApp without first providing the app (and its parent Meta) your contacts list which provides quite a bit of information about its owner. We often get bullied or pressured into joining one of these islands because that’s where a particular conversation is occurring. It’s nonsensical and unsustainable to keep joining walled gardens. 

Email was built to be interoperable. Various email systems have added additional “features” such as “confidential” forwarding restrictions or the ability to delete a sent message, but all bets are off with external addresses. Messaging apps never got around to interop but have plenty of features that make interoperability challenging. For example, Slack has custom emoji, and each app has different limits and approaches to security, 

There are two forms of interoperability when it comes to messaging apps. The first is the ability to interoperate with another organization on the same messaging platform. This is essentially “free” or built-in to Webex, Zoom, and Google Chat, but requires some effort with Teams and Slack. The bigger form of interoperability is the ability to connect with colleagues at different organizations and on different messaging apps. This is the magic that Mio provides. 

None of the major messaging app providers, from Apple to Zoom, are building interoperability as a native service. So, thank goodness for Mio, and too bad the company is only focused on enterprise apps. The consumer apps, such as Messenger, WhatsApp, and iMessage don’t put any value on interop, and consider their walled gardens a benefit. 

Apple inadvertently confirmed what we all likely knew. In court documents related to the 2016 Apple and Epic Games case, an email revealed that an unnamed Apple employee said "the #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage … iMessage amounts to serious lock-in," to which Phil Schiller, an Apple executive in charge of the App Store, responded that "moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us." Since then, Apple has released a stigmatized iMessage for Android.

SMS is the only truly interoperable messaging platform we have today. Of course, it’s largely limited to mobile phones, but almost every carrier supports it. Google has been pushing RCS as a next-generation replacement for SMS, but Apple won’t allow RCS on iPhones.

Apple's self-interest aside, messaging apps may get forced to interoperate. The European Union intends to curb anti-competitive practices among big tech companies with its recently approved Digital Markets Act (DMA). This will force some interoperability between major consumer messaging apps and will have some spillover to the enterprise as well.

Google Chat adding interop is a big win. Google Chat is the last big island to realize that business communications often extend beyond the boundaries of a collaboration app. Users of other business messaging apps get more contacts to communicate with, and Mio becomes a more valuable network. Mio has essentially become the Rosetta Stone of enterprise messaging. 


Dave Michels is a contributing editor and analyst at TalkingPointz