No, Google Hangouts is not shutting down — it's just rebranding

Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Hangouts, Google's chat app, first debuted in 2013. A report from 9to5Google yesterday said that sources confirmed Hangouts would be shutting down in 2020, to the surprise of absolutely no one. But there's one slight problem: that's not what's happening at all, and the Google product lead for Hangouts, Scott Johnston, was very clear about that:

I can see how people might get confused there; they see "Hangouts" and "shut down" and think the whole thing's dying Hangouts has been generally been declared "abandoned," "stagnant" and "dying" several times in its five-year history. It'd be almost reasonable if we hadn't known that Hangouts can't die, at least not in the foreseeable future, because Hangouts is a G Suite service that paying businesses rely on.

And for all the grief it gets, Hangouts does its job well, especially for video conferencing with outside participants.

Google began refocusing Hangouts for enterprise two years ago, and in March 2017, two new services were announced in the form of Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. Hangouts Chat brings an integrated team messaging system to G Suite locked down with Google Vault and secured to ISO, GDPR, and HIPAA certifications.

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Hangouts Meet gives businesses a secure but simplified way to hold conference calls and video chats with employees and outside participants no matter where they are or what device they're using. Hangouts Meet on G Suite Enterprise works with computers and smartphones, and even features a call-in phone number, and speaking from experience, that call-in number can be a lifesaver on an important team call. G Suite even sells Hangouts Meet Hardware with cameras, dedicated speakermics, and touch-panel video displays, which are self-diagnosing when something goes wrong with a call.

Now, all of this emphasis on business can make it seem like consumer access to Hangouts is going away, but I don't believe that's happening either. Hangouts is still one of the most consistent cross-platform chat apps on the market, and Google's product lead for Hangouts, Scott Johnson, said repeatedly that users would be upgraded or migrated to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.

At the moment, Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet are G Suite-only, but Johnson emphasizes that these will not just be enterprise products. If I had to guess, Hangouts is going to end up like Google Keep. Keep is a part of G Suite, but it's widely used by consumers as part of the Google Drive product family. Keep continues to see improvements and refinements made to the service, and regular users reap the same benefits as businesses.

When Hangouts migrates "Classic" users to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, they'll continue to see benefits and improvements to the service just as enterprise users will, because if Google wants to keep G Suite customers, they need Hangouts to compete. If/when the Chat/Meet migration happens, it just means that the Hangouts team will only have to support two apps for its service, not three, meaning they should have more time to work on features and fixes.

May I suggest they start with in-app message searching and a dark theme?

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.