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Hangouts for regular folks isn't going anywhere...for now

Google has split Hangouts into two apps for business users, but concerns over the fate of the consumer version of Hangouts have been allayed. Sort of.

Published onMarch 11, 2017

Google is at it again, clearing out the chat app cupboard by adding even more apps. Hangouts has just been split into a Duo/Allo-like pair – one for video calls and another for chat – with business users in mind.

But if you’re a happy consumer-level Hangouts user and are a little concerned about what yesterday’s news might mean for you and your dedicated Hangouts crew, rest assured, Hangouts isn’t going anywhere. At least for now. We think.

In typical Google fashion, the explanation of what exactly is going on with Hangouts has only led to even more confusion. Rather than clear up everything in a blog post, the clarification was left up to various Googlers who provided slightly different versions of Google’s plans for the regular Hangouts app.

At the Google Cloud Next conference, where Meet and Chat were officially introduced, TechCrunch reported that “Chat and Meet will supersede Hangouts” based on a conversation with Scott Johnston, Google’s director of product management for Drive.

However, Johnston was also quoted as saying that “We know people use Hangouts for work in the consumer space, so it’ll be offered for them”. Whether this means the existing Hangouts app will continue to be developed alongside Meet and Chat we don’t yet know, but it would seem that at the very least the app won’t suddenly be pulled from Google Play.

Immediately following the conference, Amit Fulay, Google’s head of product for Allo and Duo, got inundated with Twitter requests for an indication on the fate of Hangouts. Fulay also said Hangouts is “not going anywhere” but wouldn’t go into further detail as to what that means. However, Fulay also stated that Google is “in Allo and Duo for the long long run,” again leaving Hangouts’ place in the larger picture up in the air.

@andrewkingmusic it’s not going anywhere
— Amit Fulay (@amitfulay) March 10, 2017

On one level, Google’s ambitions are clear: Meet and Chat are the video and chat apps for business; Duo and Allo are their consumer equivalents. This would make the demise of Hangouts a foregone conclusion, and yet, no one seems to want to admit that. While it may be nice to keep Hangouts around for those that still use it, its continued existence only serves to muddy the waters of an otherwise clear strategy.

Google obviously doesn’t want to alienate the existing Hangouts user base, but by keeping the old Hangouts in operation alongside both the new enterprise apps and Allo and Duo, it is diluting its user base and continuing to fragment its communication tools. (Just have a read of the comments in Google Play for Hangouts Meet to see how well it has gone down)

Meet and Chat are the video and chat apps for business; Duo and Allo are their consumer equivalents.

Furthermore, Google’s aversion to adding SMS integration to Allo means Hangouts users that rely on that feature are even less likely to want to make the shift voluntarily. If Hangouts does eventually get scrapped, those users will have no choice but to move to Allo and Duo, complete with plenty of ill will for having to shift while losing features in the process.

At the very least Fulay acknowledged desktop integration for Allo is coming, but when questioned further on SMS integration, Fulay said Google is committed to building communications products for 2020, not 2010. So don’t get your hopes up for SMS support to ever come to Allo.

Google’s commitment to RCS is already obvious, so perhaps Hangouts will hang on long enough for SMS to die out, who knows. But if Google is willing to pull an Apple move by ditching SMS despite its current popularity, then why not go full Cupertino and kill off Hangouts at the same time in the name of courage?

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