Today, November 1, 2022, Google Hangouts is scheduled to die. The mobile app has been individually removing people from the service since July, but the last parts of Hangouts, the web app, will be shut down today. Hangouts was—for a while—Google’s best, most wanted, and most popular service, but 5 billion downloads later, Google is still going strong. Hangout’s closest cousin, Google Chat, should bring all your messages and contacts together now, but the new service is a faint shadow of the original plan for Hangouts.
The Hangouts shutdown is the latest chapter in the troubled history of Google’s communications. Google Talk was launched 17 years ago, and Google still doesn’t have a competing chat platform. Part of the reason we have over 10 million Google messaging apps is that we have a permanent home for messaging within Google. The 2022 message list is a good example. You’ve got the Google Workspace team building Google Chat—that’s Google’s business team working on Slack competition—and then there’s Google Messages—a messenger-type competitor to Apple’s iMessage—sort of. which grew out of the Android team. Is the team that makes Android more or less important than the team that makes Gmail and the rest of Google’s apps? Both have understandable reasons for tracking messages, but splitting the Google user base across two incompatible products makes it difficult for either campaign to gain traction. In addition to these two main programs, there is also Google Voice, and a bunch of silent messaging services in apps like Google Photos and Google Pay.
At some point, Google tried to fix this. This means that messaging has a real home on Google, and that home is Google+. In 2011, then-Google CEO Larry Page decided that community was the future, and rolled out the Google+ program across the company. The head of G+ earned the title of “Deputy Director” because he was one of the eight people who contributed directly to the Page, making Google+ one of the main pillars of Google. This division essentially took full ownership of messaging, and it launched its own messaging platform—Google+ Hangouts—two years later.
Hangouts, dubbed “Project Babel,” was tasked with— get this—combination Google message folder. Google had four messaging apps at the time, Google+ Messenger, Google Talk, Android’s SMS app, and Google Voice. Hangouts was launched in 2013, and by the end of the year SMS messaging had been introduced. As of 2014, the app is fully functional, featuring Hangouts Messages, SMS, and Google Voice in one app, all accessible from your phone or anywhere on the web. With the release of Android 4.4 in 2013, it’s there is There is no dedicated Android SMS app. Hangouts is the only default SMS option.
Google created its iMessage clone, and it’s an amazing service. All your information is available from one messaging app in an easy-to-use interface. Google also has an advantage over iMessage, thanks to cross-platform compatibility. Hangouts is available on Android, iOS, the web, and in Gmail. The service typically worked on phones, watches, cars, tablets, web browsers, and even Google Glass at one point. Google may be able to deliver today if it keeps updating and investing in Hangouts.
In 2014 the Hangout Village was already broken. Amid complaints that Google+ is a “ghost town,” knives are out for the service. Google+’s SVP and the driving force behind the project, Vic Gundotra, left Google, the same day news broke that Google+’s resources would be drastically cut, and Google’s integration- general of G+. Hangouts remained in the deadlock, and while some projects like Google+ Photos managed to turn into a real landing spot, Hangouts didn’t, and 2015 saw You have complaints from customers about the lack of financing of the project.
Another “problem” for Hangouts is hitting mobile operators. Combining SMS and messaging service into one app is something that carriers didn’t like. They wanted something focused on SMS and SMS only, so that users would not be afraid to try not to use a portable product. Google embraced it and introduced Google Messages in the next Android release. Because of Google’s lack of control and power, Hangouts’ reign as Google’s dominant, all-in-one messaging service lasted for over a year. Hangouts is still on the way to the truck as an abandoned zombie property, better than many of the new messaging services that Google will release later, and today, it will be discontinued.