Hangouts takes another step towards Google Graveyard
The history of Google Hangouts has been a strange one, to be sure. I guess that goes for any Google messaging platform, right? Google’s messaging products come at a certain pace, and that usually involves an exciting launch, a lukewarm reception, and an informal death. Sure, it might be a little too hard, but Google’s messaging history is bad and we all know it. They’ve taken out some great platforms that many loved (RIP Allo), inexplicably transferred others (Hangounts -> Hangouts Meet & Chat), and put all their hope squarely in others like Android Messages when it seems they shouldn’t have.
After taking over the functions of Google Talk years ago, Hangouts has become Google’s de facto messaging platform. It was a stand-alone service, integrated with Gmail and even supporting SMS for some users. With the addition of video calling as well, Hangouts was Google’s one-stop-shop for messaging and most of us were quite happy with it. While I’m still not sure why it was ditched for Allo and Duo a few years ago, I’m sure the rise of iMessage and WhatsApp has a lot to do with this decision. As a result of these two new messaging apps from Google, Hangouts has been left in a strange void. He received little attention, but was not killed either.
Instead, Google decided to move Hangouts to the G Suite side of the operation, giving us a weird breakdown of Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. Hangouts Chat never really did much, sticking to the standard instant messaging format while adding Slack-like options like rooms and bots. We’ve tried using it internally, but since it’s only suitable for G Suite users, we’ve found other options that are much more user-friendly in the long run. I recently signed into Hangouts Chat and it looks like not much has changed.
Hangouts Meet, however, was extremely good and very helpful. With the ability to quickly create meetings and share them with anyone via a URL, Hangouts Meet has become the go-to method of video calling for us. And it wasn’t just us. Tons of customers and reps we’ve needed to speak with over the years have offered Hangouts Meet links for conversation, almost becoming the wait when a quick video chat was scheduled. It was fantastic, honestly, and in the midst of our current pandemic, this is still the option I would choose over any other.
So where does that leave the old Hangouts aimed at consumers? He is still there and according to rumors completely killed by June 2020, but it went on for so long at this point that I was starting to wonder if there wouldn’t be some sort of resurgence. Why would Google keep it for so long? I guess Hangouts – just like Google Talk it replaced – is built into a lot of things in the Google ecosystem. It’s a quick chat in Gmail, but it also seems to feed the backend of Google’s help desk chats and who knows what else. If this is the case, it greatly complicates killing him completely. Either way, Hangouts is clearly on the verge of Google’s dreaded graveyard and if you needed proof, the latest change to Hangouts Meet and Chat should serve as proof.
At the end of last week, Google made it official: Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet are now simply Google Meet and Google Chat. This move should come as a surprise to few, as Persistent Hangouts only name confusing things. These two services share little in common with the consumer version of Hangouts other than the name, so this move makes things clearer and more concise. After all, most of us already called it Google Meet anyway. Using the term meeting place in a professional setting never felt right, anyway. Overall, it’s a good move for Google.
But there are still Hangouts we can talk about. For now, Hangouts still works, still exists, and still allows the basics of instant messaging and video chats. You can still make Hangouts calls on web and messaging, and the service still supports multiple callers online. So, I guess I’m sitting here wondering why it’s still a thing in light of Duo and Google’s success saying it was all inclusive on RCS Chat because it’s the messaging platform. (Whoopsie. Google again has two quite different products with the same name.)
I’ll be honest, I don’t really know. Sometimes I wonder if Google knows this. It looks like the removal of the Hangouts name from the two services that millions of people still use is a sign that Hangouts is finally on the brink of death. It has managed to hang around longer than most abandoned Google email services, but this move really feels like an end. We’re quickly approaching June 2020, so it’ll be interesting to see if Google just follows or extends the timeline once more. We’ll have to wait and see, but if I was still using Hangouts at this point, I would definitely look elsewhere for my messaging platform.