Google will officially transition users from Google Hangouts to Google Chat starting next year. As part of the change, Chat, a messaging service previously only available to customers who pay for Google Workspace (the recent rebranding of G Suite), will become a free service that’s available inside of Gmail and in a standalone app. And some Hangouts features will be going away ahead of its disappearance.
The transition from Hangouts to Chat will begin sometime in the first half of 2021, when Google will offer tools to help automatically bring your Hangouts conversations, contacts, and chat history to Chat, according to a blog post. It’s unclear what steps will be required for that migration, but Google says it will share guidance at some point.
This move away from Hangouts isn’t entirely unexpected — Google said in December 2018 that it planned to migrate Hangouts users to Chat and Meet at some point. Google clarified a few more details about the change with The Verge after the original publication of this story.
The switch from Hangouts to Chat will take place gradually, and there will be a period of time when both messaging services are still available. Eventually, all free users and Workspace customers will be moved over to Chat. Once that’s done, then Chat will fully replace Hangouts.
As for why you’d want to upgrade from Hangouts to Chat before you’re forced to, there are both carrots and sticks. On the plus side, Google says Chat not only offers features like direct and group conversations you might be familiar with from Hangouts, but it can also let you more easily plan and collaborate with others.
As far as pushing you away from Hangouts, Google also announced that it is planning to remove some specific Hangouts features. If you’re a Google Fi user, Google will stop letting you manage texts and phone calls from Hangouts at some point early next year. Instead, though, you’ll be able to migrate existing Hangouts conversations to Google’s Messages app and manage Fi texts and calls in the Messages app for the web starting “in the next few weeks.” But if they want to use Google’s “custom Messages features” for Google Fi, they’ll have to disable RCS. The messaging mess continues.
Google also plans to remove Google Voice support from Hangouts early next year, meaning you won’t be able to take calls from Voice in Hangouts. You’ll have to use the dedicated Voice app for Google Voice texts and calls instead. In addition, Google will no longer let you call phone numbers from Hangouts starting early next year, and group video calls in Hangouts will use Meet starting in November.