Microsoft's GroupMe looks to expand into finding groups, voice, and video calls like Telegram, Signal

Groupme Skype Android Feature
Groupme Skype Android Feature (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's GroupMe app recently surveyed users on new features it would like to see.
  • Features like voice and video chat, publicly searchable groups, and more are suggested.
  • GroupMe was founded in 2010, acquired by Skype in 2011, which Microsoft then bought.
  • If added, these features could let Microsoft compete against Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp.

Microsoft's GroupMe messaging app, bought by Skype and then by Microsoft in 2011, has always been an odd duck. The app is surprisingly popular on US college campuses for class projects and it is a fun and funky messenger app.

But a recent survey of its users suggests the developers behind GroupMe are looking to expand the current private-group-focused service significantly, making it on par with Telegram, Signal, and the Facebook Messenger/WhatsApp duopoly.

The survey, which was sent out over the last few days, had seven main questions and ratings for the service's users regarding potential new features:

  1. How do you use GroupMe?
  2. Find groups you are interested in
  3. Get notified of groups you are interested in
  4. Google Docs integration
  5. Integrate with your primary calendar
  6. Create and join video calls
  7. Create and join audio calls

The first was a general question about how people use GroupMe with choices like groups for work, church, gaming, friends, youth (coaching, mentoring), and school projects.

The other six appear to be features that the GroupMe team is thinking of implementing and looking for feedback on priority and interest. Users were asked to respond with such options as 'I like it,' 'I expect it,' 'I dislike it, and I can't accept it.'

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Ironically, for an app named GroupMe, there are no public groups that users can search for within the app. Instead, it relies on invites or shared links. But general searching of open groups based on hobbies, sports, politics, religion, and more are an increasingly popular feature found in apps like Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp. Microsoft is also gauging if people want to be notified proactively of groups related to a user's activities.

However, adding public groups and searchability would be a big undertaking as it would presumably require some content moderation, something other messaging services are contending with.

Google Docs integration makes sense since many US college students use GroupMe for classes, so sharing Google Docs would seem like an obvious addition. The same with integrating with a user's primary calendar is becoming increasingly popular for scheduling ease.

Perhaps the most curious is bringing voice and video call support to GroupMe. Despite being under the tutelage of Skype, GroupMe never could integrate with the legacy VOIP service. Last year, Microsoft finally did add the Skype' group call' feature, which creates a link to hand off calls to Skype. It is a simple kludge, but it sounds like Microsoft may thinking of adding some native VOIP and video support directly.

GroupMe: A slow burn

Microsoft has quite a few messaging services these days, with Skype and Teams being the biggest. However, neither has turned into a consumer-preferred option despite the attempted push at Microsoft Teams for personal use.

Of course, one is right to criticize Microsoft for being years behind the curve. GroupMe always had a decent following, but it never received much support from Microsoft, with only a slow trickle of new features (and dark mode) over the years.

All of that may be changing, however. Recent additions like "Campus Connect" let users find groups based on a college email address. There is also the new 'reply to comment' feature, which is common amongst every other messenger platform. When combined with the above survey, it sounds like Microsoft finally realizes that GroupMe's charming UI, emojis, and famous "heart" like feature may have more potential than it thought.

GroupMe is currently available on iOS, Android, Windows 10, Xbox, and the web.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Microsoft's Microsoft GroupMe?
  • Good call. Revamp GroupMe and dump Skype. The sunset of Skype has been the slowest moving train of all time. Well, except maybe Windows 7.
  • Probably because Skype has never been announced as sunsetting? Only Skype for Business, which is being folded into Teams has been announced. Skype is still widely used for video around the world. See its heavy use in the last year even to news shows for guests. From earlier in 2020 as the pandemic broke out:
    "The company says 40 million people are using Skype daily now, up 70% from just a month ago. The company said it's seen a 220% increasing in Skype-to-Skype calls, too. All told, the company said it tallied 200 million active users in the past six months."
    40 million DAUs is not something you just ... turn off because people in comments want to dig on it. I get people hate on Skype, but the fact is, there are few alternatives as widely known that serve the same purpose. It's not Google, it's not Apple. Zoom and WhatsApp/Telegram/Signal have entered the market, but it's only Zoom that has impacted professional use. No one does a work or news call on Telegram.
  • Hmmm, good point. Point being is MS is so big with so many overlapping products. I come from an it architecture background and so I inherently seek to simplify and eliminate waste. I'd like to see MS improve their top down vision and start streamlining their offerings so they can focus on end-user experience that delivers coherency. Just take the search functionality in Office apps. That search button is wildly different in every app. Word and OneNote and Outlook ...all way different. It just screams that nobody at MS has a top down vision across their products. Messaging and collaboration, you'd think, would be right up MS's wheelhouse but it's awful. In isolation, MS makes amazing software. But there is just so little synergy. I can't ever buy into Apple but they understand this point very well.
  • About damn time lol...
  • Seriously. I think they kept thinking they could do this with Skype or Teams, but neither has caught on for consumers.
  • Sure looks like it. Skype imo never managed to capitalize on the mindshare and had they not dragged their heels to a mobile transition things would be very different. Teams imo doesn't have the branding appeal to consumers as the name evokes mental association to education and work nothing personal. Families don't have team meetings lol... If Microsoft had to go for a new bland brand name, then Rooms would be the best option and they could pretty much make the Rooms functionality from Windows phone a standalone app which already had connections to the Windows Live backend. That would make the windows phone hold outs happy and for general consumers also them to mentally associate whatever meaning they want. Or they could have revived the Windows Live Messenger. Personally, I'd rather see Microsoft incorporate the rooms features into groupme and focus on growing groupme's userbase. As opposed to embarking on another costly misadventure with a brand new app.
  • The popularity of this app with colleges should be a no brainer for Microsoft to capitalize on. It should at least have all the basic features that are found with all their other competitors