Even the most successful companies in the world make occasional business blunders. Remember Apple Ping? Microsoft Bob? Well, those are nothing compared with the mess Google has made of its messaging ecosystem. Google announced major changes to its popular Hangouts messaging platform in 2017, but Hangouts is still chugging along more than two years later. Now, Google has been forced to delay the Hangouts migration until at least June 2020.
Google has traditionally had trouble picking a messaging strategy and sticking with it. Groups within Google would launch a new messaging app every year or two until Hangouts, which grew out of Google Talk, attempted to unify everyone. And for a while, it did. Hangouts was integrated with Gmail, putting it front and center for many users. However, Google wanted to emulate the success of mobile-first messengers like WhatsApp, so it launched Allo in 2016. In 2017, it announced plans to shut down the “classic” Hangouts. Google ended up killing Allo before it even finished shutting down Hangouts, which really puts the whole thing in perspective.
Google’s plan is to migrate G Suite users from Hangouts Classic to two new apps: Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. The former is for video conferencing and the latter is group chat. So far, the move to Chat and Meet has been optional, but Google intended to close the old Hangouts for G Suite users in October 2019. Google says it’s heard a lot of feedback from customers that they wanted more time, so it now says the transition won’t happen until June 2020 at the earliest. Hangouts will continue getting maintenance updates until then, but it won’t get any new features.
Plenty of non-business customers still use Hangouts, too. Google has said that the consumer shutdown would come after G Suite, so this delay indirectly affects people who use Hangouts on their personal accounts. You’ll probably be able to keep using Hangouts Classic for another year or so. After that, you’ll be able to give Hangouts Chat a shot. Although, it’s more like Slack than it is like Hangouts Classic, and the death of Allo means there’s no direct successor.
After pulling back on Allo, Google has put all its eggs in the RCS basket. However, that means working with carriers, and progress has been extremely slow. Hey, maybe RCS will actually work by the time Google gets around to killing Hangouts Classic.