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2018 Year in Review: Hangouts isn't dead yet and Google's messaging plans

For those of you using the classic version of Google Hangouts, I'm sure you've noticed that there haven't been any significant updates in a very long time. That has help fed rumors of Hangouts' imminent demise, and made a the anonymously sourced report that 2019 would be "the last year" you could use Hangouts sound plausible.

This did push Google into finally posting more detailed information about their messaging services strategy:

  • Google's consumer messaging platforms are Messages and Duo video calling. Allo will shut down in March, with some of its are incorporated into Messages, Google’s app for texting - SMS and MMS - and RCS chat.  RCS is an “upgraded” version of SMS that supports rich text, group chats and other features. Google is working with the mobile industry to try to get an RCS standard working everywhere.
A significant difference in the way "consumer" messaging is set up, is that Messages, Allo and Duo are linked to your mobile phone, so they don't have the cross-platform flexibility of Hangouts, which you can access anywhere with your Google account. 

While Classic Hangouts didn’t get any significant updates this year, both Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat have been regularly updated with new features. 

Hangouts Meet is now the default video calling service for G Suite customers. Enterprise customers can have up to 100 people participating in a call, live stream so that others within their organization can watch, and have phone participants dial in from more than 40 countries.

Hangouts Chat just became a core service for G Suite at the beginning of 2018. It's compatible with Classic Hangouts, so that one-to-one conversations can be accessed through both Classic and Chat. The service looks more like Slack or social site than it does a chat service, with automated bots, both group messaging and discussion "Rooms" with formatted posting (slightly reminiscent of Spaces). 

It will be interesting to see what updates 2019 will bring, although I suspect there won't be consumer access to Chat and Meet until at least 2020.

What will happen with the shutdown of consumer Google+?

When the consumer version of Google+ shuts down in April, I think it is likely the few remaining Google+-based features offered by Hangouts will be removed:

  • Manage who can send you Hangouts conversation Invites using Google+ Circles
  • The few remaining Google+ Hangouts apps, including the ability to dial into a video call (served by the Dialpad and RingCentral apps), integrations with other enterprise communications tools (e.g. Slack), and the Hangouts on Air broadcasting tools (Toolbox, Control Room, Cameraman).
There hasn't been any information from Google about what will be happening exactly, so look for updates soon. It may be that the Hangouts apps, for example, are given another exemption from shutdown.

Look back: 2017 Year in Review: Google Hangouts gets down to business
Get all creator updates for 2018: Google+, YouTube, Blogger, AdSense, Hangouts and more

2018 Hangouts Tutorials

Classic Hangouts Update Timeline

The Hangouts Android and iOS apps were updated several times, primarily with "performance improvements and bug fixes".

Hangouts Meet (group video calling) 2018 Update Timeline

Allo, Duo, Android Messages 2018 Update Timeline