Following the kerfuffle around the "shutdown" of Hangouts late last year, Google now has a hard-set timeline for the transition from the old "classic" Hangouts (which we all know) to the new Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet products. At least, for those who use Hangouts in an enterprise capacity using Google's paid G Suite service. Here's the breakdown:
Google finally has a timeline for moving G Suite customers over to Chat — consumers can expect at least another year.
On April 16, 2019, Google Vault (the enterprise data storage service) will stop protecting classic Hangouts messages in accordance with current Mail retention rules — data retention will be unified under one policy with classic Hangouts and Chat. G Suite administrators will then be able to manage both classic Hangouts and Chat with a single control panel, and will have the option to forcibly disable classic Hangouts for their domain.
From April to September 2019, Google will start to transition features from classing Hangouts over to Chat. According to this blog post, the goal is to bring classic Hangouts features over to Chat fully before the sunset of classic Hangouts in October. Google doesn't yet have a hard date for the full shutdown fo classic Hangouts, but says that it will "start" in the month of October. The hope is that administrators will have started to transition their companies to Chat well before.
If you read all of that at a quick pace, you may be worried that your personal Hangouts are somehow affected by this. You'd be wrong. It's important to reiterate that all of this information is being provided through the lens of informing G Suite administrators, not the general public. People for some reason keep looking at these G Suite announcements as consumer-facing timelines, even though Google makes things abundantly clear:
The above dates are specific to G Suite customers and their end users who use classic Hangouts. We will continue to support consumer use of classic Hangouts, and expect to transition consumers to free Chat and Meet following the transition of G Suite customers. A more specific timeline will be communicated at a later date.
Understanding this, we can extrapolate that classic Hangouts won't be going anywhere for the general public until well into 2020. I find it incredibly ambitious for Google to think that it can transition even G Suite customers from classic Hangouts to Chat and Meet by the end of 2019, and provided the fact that it hasn't yet offered a date for consumer Google accounts, we can expect to have access to classic Hangouts for some time.
As established in December, Hangouts isn't "dying" in any case — it's simply transitioning to the new platforms of Hangouts Chat and Meet. But uncertainty breeds fear in consumers, particularly with something as personal as chat apps — and it would certainly behoove Google to give us even a rough timeline of when we can expect to move from classic Hangouts to Chat and Meet, and everything that will entail. We should have a better idea in the second half of 2019.