What do Google, disco, and Apple’s iPhone have in common? They’re three words one wouldn’t normally expect to find combined together, that’s for sure. They also now represent Google’s latest mobile launch: a group-texting service that allows one to mass-message one’s friends from a mobile phone or Web interface.
Disco, in this case, refers to the service created by Google’s in-house startup Slide, which the company acquired for $182 million this past August. Slide has been allowed to operate as an independent entity within Google proper, which perhaps sheds a little more light on why the mass-texting service has made its debut as an iPhone app instead of a piece of software for Google’s Android OS.
So here’s how it works: When you sign up for the service via Disco.com (which Google purchased for a cool $255,000 last year), you create an account based on your mobile phone number. The service verifies that you’re the owner of the number by shooting you a text message to your device and, if you’re good to go, it invites you to set up your first group for mass-texting.
Each group can be named whatever you want, and adding friends is as easy as typing in their mobile digits. The caveat, however, is that these numbers are instantly notified that you’ve placed them in a mass-texting group along with whatever name you’ve assigned to it—probably something to keep in mind if you’re looking to create a “those jerks I work with” group chat.
Once you have your group list set up, Disco’s Web interface makes correspondence look like an instant message chat. Anything you type into the chat window will be sent out to anyone in your group, and anything they respond with will near-instantly pop up in the site’s chat window. If you don’t have access to Disco’s Web site, you can also start up (or reply to) a group conversation by texting the phone number that Disco assigns to each group you create.
The associated iPhone app basically allows you to perform the same administrative activities that you’d otherwise find on Disco’s Web site. However, you can also use a Facebook integration to pull in numbers from your friends on that service. Although Google and Facebook don’t get along, the fact that Slide—Disco’s creator—serves as its own app shop within Google seems to make the pairing OK between both parties.
Or, at least, perhaps until Facebook launches a group-texting service of its very own, which is rumored to be in the works thanks to the company’s recent acquisition of group-texting startup Beluga. Is group texting shaping up to be the next big battleground between the Web’s social (or search) superstars?