We reported on Google’s plans to replace Hangouts with Talk and Meet at the tail end of 2018. The company later reported the news and has moved enterprise users to those two apps since then. Google is now ready to begin explaining how classic Hangouts users can move to a free Chat version.
This development follows the rebranding of Google Workspace last week, which is now available to corporate clients. Next year, consumers are set to get this integrated offering, but they already have access to free Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and, most recently, Meet versions. Chat is what will be new to free accounts, with Google having yet to outline its plans thoroughly.
That’s changing today to give users an early heads-up, although the final “timing may shift.” The free edition of Google Chat can be used inside Gmail and as a standalone application, similar to Hangouts.
In this upcoming version, the functionality will not vary from what is available to paid users today. The free chat is positioned by Google as allowing you to collaborate on personal projects with others. This requires access to rooms that are broader than group discussions and are targeted at teams. In effect, a Slack and Discord rival is provided by Google in particular.
In the first half of 2021, users will be able to quickly move conversations, history, and contacts from classic Hangouts to a free chat. Before the procedure gets under way, “more specific guidance” is coming.
Today , Google also gave an enterprise update. Starting in Q2 2021, unless Workspace admins expressly opt out, all clients will be moved to Chat. There will be a “mandatory upgrade” in “late 2021,” where classic Hangouts will be completely replaced by Chat.
Today, Hangouts is already intertwined with the latest Google messaging apps. These integrations, beginning with Google Fi, are being unwound.
“Hangouts will no longer be able to make Fi calls or send SMS when support is removed” early next year, Google states that over time, Fi users have moved from classic Hangouts to the native dialer and texting app.
Messages for the Web provides support for making Fi voice calls and checking voicemail to further drive this migration, to improve the current ability to send / receive messages. And when your phone is off, this will work, with the ability to migrate existing conversations from Hangouts also coming. In the next few weeks, this new Google Messages feature is arriving, though end-users will start getting alerts in October to move away from Hangouts.
Classic Hangouts App
For the standalone Hangouts applications, the most immediate change applies and will come into effect next month. To have a more modern calling experience than what’s currently provided, Google is incorporating Meet into Hangouts. Users can either ring the other person (like before) while making a 1:1 video call, or create and send a Google Meet link automatically. For group calls, the only choice that will start in November is to use Meet.
Finally, early next year, the opportunity to dial domestic and international phone numbers is being removed by Hangouts. This is due to the incoming US and EU rules, with current loans being paid back.