Google has a complicated history with communication applications. The company has introduced, lost interest in, and killed enough that I’ve kind of lost count. So it was kind of nice when Google Hangouts launched in 2013 with features taken from three earlier apps (Google talk, Google+ Messenger, and Hangouts video chat).

Now it looks like Hangouts may be on the way out.

According to a report from 9to5Google, Hangouts could shut down in 2020.

Update: Google says it’s not so much shutting down Hangouts as transitioning users to a new version. See below for more details. 

The move shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone who’s been paying attention. last year Google announced it was shifting the focus of Hangouts to enterprise.

Since then Google has continued to offer a free version for consumers, but it clearly hasn’t been a high priority for the company. The company has another chat app called Allo, but it’s not particularly popular. And Google has been trying to push RCS (Rich Communication Services), a newfangled set of features for SMS.

It’s unclear what the future holds for folks who’ve been using Hangouts since before it was called Hangouts.  I have a few contacts that I communicate with almost exclusively via Hangouts, either on my phone (thanks to the Android app) or on my laptop (thanks to the Hangouts widget built into the Gmail web app).

If 9to5Google’s source is correct, it looks like we’ve got a year or two to come up with an alternative.

Update: Googler Scott Johnston has weighed in on Twitter, saying the company hasn’t made a decision “about when Hangouts will be shut down” and that users “will be upgraded to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet,” the text chat-based app and video-chat app aimed at enterprise users that Google introduced last year.

Update 2: Google released a statement explaining that at some point Hangouts users will be migrated to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, but the timeline for that change hasn’t been announced yet and the existing version of Hangouts will continue to be supported until then:

In March 2017, we announced plans to evolve classic Hangouts to focus on two experiences that help bring teams together: Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. Both Chat and Meet are available today for G Suite customers and will be made available for consumer users, too. We have not announced an official timeline for transitioning users from classic Hangouts to Chat and Meet. We are fully committed to supporting classic Hangouts users until everyone is successfully migrated to Chat and Meet.

Update 3: Google says Allo is going away. Hangouts users will eventually be able to use Hangouts Chat and Meet. And it’s continuing to invest in Messages and Duo.

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25 replies on “Report: Google Hangouts will stop hanging out in 2020 (Update: sort of)”

  1. I’m sick of being jerked around. I started on Voice and Talk, they eventually were merged, and now they’re diverging again? Last I checked, if I make a phone call via Voice on my computer, it still opens a Hangouts window, but reporting says the split already happened.

    I’m not looking forward to this, since I liked being able to use voice, video, and text all in one place, and as much as I begrudged being forced into it originally (mainly because it mixed SMS in there too), I like being able to make phone calls from Hangouts.

  2. What do you think of Delta Chat? https://delta.chat/en/

    It’s funny that when I posted this yesterday it didn’t seem to go through moderation. Essentially killing any meaningful discussion when it is still timely.

  3. How is moderation working here? If someone is new, his posts won’t be shown?

  4. I’m still not over their decision to kill Inbox and forcing everybody back to Gmail (which I hate), and now this.

    I’m seriously going to look for non-Google alternatives at this point, this is beyond irritating.

  5. After they killed Reader and then Alerts I became very reluctant to touch anything they released.

  6. I use Line as it is available on both Android and iOS. All my Asian friends are on it too.

    1. I live in Japan and use LINE extensively. Their security is too rigid when it comes to switching devices etc… Cannot have your messages on more than one device. They also do not allow Bitlbee connections through libpurple anymore… If only 🙁

      1. I appreciate the security. All messages are end to end encrypted, and the platform has a lot of monetization like Line Pay so I’d rather be too much security than not enough. It would be nice to be able to login on my tablet though when I am lazying around on my couch and am expecting messages. Oh well. My biggest pet peeve is that you can only age verify with a major carrier or Line mobile which sucks for us other MVNO users. Any new friends I make can’t search for me by id because I don’t use those carriers so it’s limited to QR codes.

        1. I thought that feature was only on Japan sims… One of the reasons switched to google Fi from Rakuten mobile was for that very reason.
          I’ll end up using Line as my main even though it doesnt integrate with Bitlbee..Most of the people I know are on it.

  7. With Google being so flaky with commitment to their services, I’ve gradually stopped using anything new from them. The only things I actively use are Gmail, Maps/Navigation and search (well mostly been using DuckDuckGo now). I’m sure I’m using other things indirectly though.

    I wonder if Google will kill off Gmail…

  8. Google has released, and abandoned so many social media platforms and messaging clients, it’s starting to become hard work keeping up with them. Why would anyone trust another Google branded instant message client or social networking product ever again? The only thing you can be sure of is that it will be dropped…

  9. This is really upsetting! me and my best friend use this EVERY DAY! It’s been our life line since 2013 when we met, and it’s my favorite chat system in existence! Is there a way to tell Google to keep it? So many people use and love it, so why are they getting rid of it? I’m seriously upset…. 😭

  10. Whatever I end up jumping to, it won’t be made by Google. Seriously, what are they thinking?

    1. As much as I like competition and a free-market trade, I gotta hand it to Apple and their closed ecosystem, to pulling off their services so well and standing by them like a good parent stands by their child.

      PS: I don’t have an iPhone.

      1. As someone who works IT for a primarily Apple-device company that helps other organizations with their Apple devices… I can’t disagree more. Finding out that your servers are being held hostage because a “free” OS update means you have to rebuy the Server app is not at all fun when you didn’t initiate that update. Calling support just to find out their engineers are just as frustrated with multi-user device issues as I am is not good execution.

        Maybe things are all sunshine and rainbows for a given iPhone-bearing consumer, but enterprise iPads and Macbooks are an absolute nightmare.

    2. They’ve collected enough data and no longer need the input. They’ll use the data to improve their other projects.

  11. My wife and I still use Hangouts because nothing comes close to the versatility and simplicity of it. It’s not inundated with cognitive noise or advertising, doesn’t make us suffer Facebook, and more importantly, has a great web client meaning we can chat even when we are away from our phones. I could be wrong, but near as I can tell, nothing comes close to reproducing all of its functionality, especially a native web based client. I don’t want to have to pull out my phone or worry about whether my phone is on the same network as my laptop. Screw app or device specific messaging– it feels like we’re moving backward rather than forward.

    1. I’m in the exact same situation. My Wife and I use it. There isn’t any service that comes close to being as good. We got into it years ago, when my kid was too young for a phone, so we got them an iPod Touch. Hangouts was the only cross platform messaging app that was suitable (we didn’t want our kid to have a Facebook account, and WhatsApp requires an actual smartphone).

      Hangouts has the best video conferencing service that I’ve ever used. The interface is very intuitive, and it handles low connection speed, and latency very well (in my experience, both Facebook Messenger and Skype are absolute crap when your connection speed is poor).

      Hangouts checks so many checkboxes for me. Web access, you can search keywords in your convo history, cross platform, no ads, and the list goes on.

      Allo wasn’t a good alternative when it launched. They lacked web-access (which I can see has now been released?). Also Allo is tied to your phone number, not an account. Which makes it very much tied to your phone. The new Web client seems to require you sync it to your phone, which seems like a poor design. Its obvious they did this because they thought that it would increase user adoption, as people would naturally find their friends more easily. Also, Allo’s SMS support was an absolute joke. All it could do was send messages. It couldn’t even receive SMS.

      I don’t think I will be using another messaging service from Google again after Hangouts dies. I’m so confused as to Google’s direction and intention with messaging services. They have no consistent direction. It seems like they just have an interchanging set of different groups in their company that think up ideas for things like this, and Google tries them out for a few years.

      If someone wants to make a successful messaging app, make it cross platform, web-accessible, account-based (not phone number based), not tied to a social media account, SMS capable, and most importantly… End-to-end encryption.

      WhatsApp is the only service that comes close. The only shortcoming is the fact that its tied to your Phone number.

      1. Exactly same situation here with my wife… No idea what we’re going to do. I need something that works with Bitlbee and on any platform… ridiculously stupid and incomprehensible decision IMO

      2. Personally I prefer Viber to WhatsApp but fewer friends have it and it’s still tired to your phone number.

        You might want to look at KakaoTalk. Other than actual messages actual sms, it meets your requirements I think. When you abdicate it on a phone you use your number but they actually encourage you to create an account which you can use for the desktop version and recover your “identity” (so your friends/contacts can find your account) when you change numbers.

        It does have encryption but it’s not the default.

        Here’s short but interesting story on encryption and messenger apps. It talks about different standards including how some that have end to end encryption actually store unencrypted messages on their servers.

        https://www.pentasecurity.com/blog/kakaotalk-default-settings-end-end-encryption-isnt-always-prioritized-messaging-apps/

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