Google has made a number of surprising moves these past few months. It announced the creation of a China-based search engine and a new user-interface for Gmail. Now, it is planning to permanently shut down Hangouts, according to The Verge.
Google Hangouts for consumers will be shutting down sometime in 2020. That is not surprising at all since the search engine giant essentially ceased development on the app more than a year ago. But just know, going into 2019, this is indeed the last year to keep using the beloved legacy chat app.
Last spring, Google announced its pivot for the Hangouts brand to enterprise use cases with Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, so the writing has been on the wall for quite some time regarding the Hangouts consumer app’s demise. Meanwhile, the company has transitioned its consumer-facing messaging efforts to RCS “Chat” and Android Messages following Allo’s misadventures.
Given Google’s abandonment of the app in terms of development and its presumed eventual death, many have already transitioned away from using it. But Hangouts is still the prominent chat option in Gmail on the web and the app remains on the Google Play Store to this day. Many recent reviews say that the app is showing signs of age, noting bugs, and performance issues.
As mentioned, Hangouts as a brand will live on with G Suite’s Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, the former intended to be a team communication app comparable to Slack, and the latter a video meetings platform. Meanwhile, Google Voice calling, which was at first independent and then long integrated into Hangouts, was moved back out to its own redesigned app earlier this year.
Interestingly, despite its forthcoming axing, Hangouts was one of a few apps to get early support for Android Auto’s new MMS and RCS functionality, alongside Android Messages and WhatsApp.
In a recent update, Google’s Scott Johnston has chimed in and denies that any decisions have been made about the timeline of legacy Hangouts’ shutdown. Confusingly, however, he says that users of consumer Hangouts users will be somehow “upgraded” to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, both being enterprise-focused products that fill different needs.
Scott also explicitly confirms for the first time that Hangouts Classic, the subject of this report, will be shutting down “eventually.” Meanwhile, a second source has since corroborated my initial report, and says decisions have indeed been made for the deprecation of legacy Hangouts.
Shutting down Hangouts has been a long time coming, so if anything, its retirement still being more than a year away is what’s surprising here. It is safe to assume that its actual usage numbers are still significant given that Google’s initiative to build a true messaging alternative, Allo, flopped miserably. Meanwhile the “Chat” RCS initiative that Google’s leading up still is not off the ground, either.
In related news, Google Assistant has introduced a brand new feature called “Pretty Please.” The company announced the release of the feature, which helps encourage polite manners when interacting with its smart home devices. The feature was first announced at Google’s I/O developers conference in May.
The “Pretty Please” feature works when users talking to their Google Assistant include words like “please” or “thank you” in their requests. Like, “Hey Google, please set a timer for 5 minutes.” With “Pretty Please,” a Google Assistant might respond to that request by saying: “Thanks for asking so nicely. Alright, 5 minutes. Starting now.”
The idea behind “Pretty Please” is to reinforce polite behaviours for children and adults as well. The feature is now live on Google’s Smart Speakers and for all those who have registered their voices with the Google Assistant app.