Google says it’s sunsetting Hangouts and pivoting to Chat, and Chat will become available as a free service—both in the integrated experience in Gmail and the Chat standalone app.
The news comes just days after the recent rebranding of G Suite to Google Workspace. Google says it will allow everyone to begin upgrading from Hangouts to Chat starting in the first half of 2021.
“To ensure a smooth transition, we will help automatically migrate your Hangouts conversations, along with contacts and saved history. We’ll share more specific guidance on what steps you can take when we begin the transition process,” Matthew Leske, Google’s group project manager noted in an Oct. 15 blog post.
Google Chat features similar capabilities to Hangouts such as direct and group messaging, with additional features such as faster search, send to inbox, suggested replies and emoji reactions.
An upcoming feature change in Hangouts will include the removal of the call phones feature in Hangouts. The company says it is doing so in response to the new telecommunications regulations that are being introduced in the EU and U.S. beginning next year. Separately, Google says it will update the group video calling experience in Hangouts with Meet in November, in an attempt to provide better quality meetings.
“In October, we’ll start showing affected users an in-product notification with guidance on how to receive refunds on their remaining calling credits, and early next year, we’ll remove the feature entirely,” Google said.
The company had explained in a June 2 blog post how users can migrate from Hangouts to Google Chat. The migration, which the company said will impact the admins and end-users, can be done with the “Chat preferred” setting in the Admin console.
Upon enabling this setting, Google says Chat will become the “default chat application for your organization, replacing all of your classic Hangouts apps and appearing in Gmail on the web.”
In the deployment guide, the company warns organizations to review the list of known limitations before they migrate to Chat.
Notable limitations include:
- Phone calls and text messages using Google Voice are not currently available in Chat. Users can get these features by using Google Voice at voice.google.com, from the App Launcher, or by downloading the Google Voice mobile app (Android, iOS).
- Some direct message history from classic Hangouts will appear in Chat, but group messages from classic Hangouts (including their history) won’t be migrated to Chat. Users can still view the chat history through Gmail. They can continue to participate in the classic Hangouts group conversations on the Web at hangouts.google.com, but not by visiting hangouts.google.com in mobile browsers.
- New group messages and rooms started in Chat won’t send messages to users who are still on classic Hangouts, and the other way around.
- G Suite organizations that haven’t turned on Chat yet won’t be reachable through Chat. Users can only message external users that have Chat turned on in their organization. For these external chats, users can still use hangouts.google.com. The classic Hangouts bot will notify users in Chat of any missed messages.
- Chat rooms are limited to 8000 members.
“In the coming months, we’ll send notifications to Google Workspace admins to detail the final migration stages,” says the company.