Back in October Google announced that it would be switching off it’s messaging platform Google Hangouts. Last week Google started making significant changes to Hangouts and Google chat in advance of the upgrade which will start early next year, 2021. For those organisations who are yet to move onto the new Gmail UI with embedded Google Chat, check out our article on migrating to the Gmail UI.

It’s fair to say that Google’s messaging strategy has been less than clear with different products available for consumers, such as Hangout, Duo, RCS and Chat, and businesses, such as Hangout, Hangout Chat and Hangout Meet, although these have recently been renamed to Google Chat and Google Meet. With different features being rolled out to consumers and businesses at different times it’s easy to get confused. But one messaging product has stood the test of time and has lasted almost 7 years, Google Hangouts.

So, if like us, you’ve been using Google Hangouts for both home and work then you’ll need to know what’s going to happen when you finally make the switch.

Google Hangouts will be replaced by two services, Google Chat and Google Meet. Google Chat is Google’s answer to Slack or Microsoft Teams allowing users to send messages direct, via a group (known as a room) or to a bot in order to initiative a background service which will report back with information.

Google Meet is Google’s alternative to Zoom and provides Video conferencing capabilities. Users of Google Hangout will already be familiar with Google Meet as it was recently added to Google Hangout as the video option. (Google Duo, which is Google’s other video messaging solution is rumoured to be replaced by Google Meet too eventually.)

Unfortunately some of the features in Google Hangouts such as SMS and Phone Dialer have not been migrated over to Google Chat or Google Meet. Google Fi users have historically been able to manage SMS and phone calls from Hangouts. From an Android mobile device Messages by Google will provide a similar experience, and will also support RCS. It’s also not yet clear if all the current features in Google Chat and Meet that are available to Google Workspace users will be available in the consumer version. If you’ve not done so already we’d recommend that you give Google Chat a try via chat.google.com. We’ve noticed some of our historical conversations have moved over but not all over them.

“Starting in the first half of 2021, everyone can begin upgrading from Hangouts to Chat,” Google announced. “To ensure a smooth transition, we will help automatically migrate your Hangouts conversations, along with contacts and saved history. We’ll share more specific guidance on what steps you can take when we begin the transition process.”

Finally, if you have important information stored within some of your Google Hangout conversations, it’s probably a good time to think about taking a backup before the switch over next year. You can export your entire Google Hangouts archive using Google Takeout.