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Report: Teens are repurposing Google Docs from productivity tool to hot chat app

As evident at Allo's death earlier this week and the upcoming consumer deprecation of Plus, Google has tried and failed to be relevant in social. However, it now appears that the company might have accidentally stumbled into a presence with Google Docs.

The Atlantic today detailed how Google Docs is one "hot" way for today's teens to talk. These young users are not even primarily using the built-in live chat (which most teachers aren't aware of), but rather the real-time collaborative nature that allows for multiple people to simultaneously add text to a document.

Some kids create a doc for the day, share it with friends, and then delete once finished. By the end, documents are long strings of sentences and paragraphs, while users will distinguish themselves by choosing different fonts.

Teens duty me they use Google Docs to chat just about any time they need to put their phone away but know their friends will be on computers

Meanwhile, a key part of the G Suite app's appeal is the appearance of productivity. Tied with the rise of Chromebooks and allowed laptop usage, kids will use and shared Google Docs ̵

1; sometimes cloning one from teacher to provide a further air of work – to communicate while in class or when studying. ] What's happening about this trend is how kids are delivering every part of Google Docs to their benefit.

They'll clone a teacher's shared Google document, then chat in the comments, so it appears to the causal viewer that they have re just making notes on the lesson plan. If the teacher approaches take a closer look, they can click the “Resolve” button and the entire thread will disappear

With that “Resolve” feature, Google Docs and every other G Suite app, like Sheets and Slides, is vaguely ephemeral, and reflective of Snapchat or Instagram Stories

9to5Google's Take

The full Atlantic piece is a fascinating read, and while there is an obvious joke about Google having Another messaging app, there are several insights to glean:

In contrast to a messaging app, Google Docs is a complex application with a slew of menus, toolbars, and hidden features. However, kids who inherently grew up surrounded by technology understand it. Simplicity in any product is obviously good and beneficial to all, but it will be interesting to see how tech development matures as its users become increasingly savvy and literate.

One comment from the article was how kids turned to Docs when they had to be on a computer. In terms of cross-platform services, Google's messaging apps have historically suffered from this. While Google as a company transitioned rather than into the mobile era, their social strategy became quite fixated on the phones of desktop form factors.

Google Allo did not have a desktop client for several months, while Duo only gained one last month. Messages for web is a product, but one is based on a very cumbersome QR code authentication. RCS will continue to suffer from the problem if it is inherently meant for one device, rather than residing in the cloud.

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