In a corporate blog post published last October 15, Google announced that it was going to shut down Google Hangouts. The company announced that key features would be removed from the messaging service before migrating all users automatically to Google Chat in 2021.
The blog post specified features currently in Hangouts, such as Google Fi and Google Voice, that will lose support over the coming months. Users who use Google Fi to manage messages and make calls will no longer be able to utilize these features in Hangouts.
Google Voice users, on the other hand, who used Hangouts to make calls to their Google Voice number will now be redirected to Google Voice. Those who relied on Hangouts to make group video calls will also be redirected to Google Meet. As stated in its blog post, Google will officially remove Voice support early next year.
Business users who also rely on Hangouts will also have to contend with more changes. With the introduction of the “Chat Preferred” setting last June, Admin will not be able to “migrate all end-users to Chat in Google Workspace.” Google has also allowed configuration to Google Chat at an organization unit level to allow customizable across all different work structures and organizations in a business setting. Google has reassured its consumers that Google will send notifications in relation to the migration stages implemented in the business environment.
While the Hangouts migration was already announced last 2018, Google took its time to put up a systematic migration process for the service.
Google’s target is to have its system fully implemented next year which will automatically migrate users and their contacts and chat history to Google Chat.
Apart from these changes, Google intends to make Google Chat free to use once the migration process takes place. Currently, only paying G Suite and Workspace users have access to Google Chat. Based on their blog post, Google Chat will be available as a “free service’ both as a service integrated with Gmail and as a standalone app.
With these changes, Google Chat may soon integrate key features that made Hangouts great. As announced by Google, Chat will “include familiar features” such as ground messaging, direct, suggested replies, emoji reactions and a faster search tool. Chat will also feature robust phishing protection that provides the same level of protection provided to Gmail.
Google is encouraging Hangouts users to upgrade from Hangouts to Chat starting the first half of 2021 while at the same time reassuring that it will guide its consumers regarding specific guidelines and steps in relation to the transition process.
This is not the first time that Google is discontinuing the development of one of its messaging apps. Previously, the company had shut down Google Allo in March of last year.
Considering the number of messaging services Google has developed over the years, however, these moves do make sense, bringing all users into one service. At the same time, it also promises to bring many of the features of its beloved Hangouts app into its current messaging app, hopefully providing for a better experience for all its users.