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2023 in Review: Chat, Meet and Google Workspace Communication

 2023 Meet and Chat Updates

One of the trends for 2023 was the simplification and deeper integration of Google Workspace products. That, and, of course, integration of generative AI features.

In 2020 Google G Suite became Google Workspace, with new icons for Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Meet and Chat. They use a common set of permissions and promised “a better home for work.”

Since then Google has been working towards better integrating the supported products and shutting down those it doesn’t need.

My personal focus is on Google’s communication and collaboration tools, especially features available to personal Google Accounts or personal accounts with a Google Workspace Individual subscription.

Highlights from 2023:

  • Google Chat is the messaging platform for businesses and organizations. It includes “Chats” conversations and Spaces, which can have linked Tasks and Documents. With the migration of Currents Communities and Hangouts conversations complete, a new Chat design launched, with more features to come.
  • Google Meet is Google’s one video calling platform. It was combined with Duo (now Meet calling) starting in 2022, a process that is ongoing. There were a bunch of new features and improvements both fun (like AI-generated backgrounds) and useful (such as pairing video tiles).
  • Interoperability! Meet meetings can be joined from Zoom Room hardware (and vice versa), while Chat is working on interoperability with Slack (via Mio).
  • Google Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides got a redesign.
  • Docs, Sheets, Slides and Gmail have new generative AI features.
  • Google announced Jamboard will shut down in 2024.

DuetAI works with you

Google’s generative AI-for-Workspace is called DuetAI. It includes a number of new features and tools for Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, Gmail and Meet.

Check out my review of Google’s current generative AI features, which has instructions on how to access many of them with your free Google account.

There are sure to be new DuetAI generative AI features released over the coming year.

Currents Shutdown (along with the last vestiges of Google+)

Currents was Google’s successor to Google+.

Google+ for personal accounts shut down in April 2019, but was still available to business and education accounts. Google+ accounts became Currents accounts, and there was a redesign and a few new features meant to better focus the platform on communication within an organization.

When the new Google Workspace was announced, it was notable that Currents was not mentioned.

So Google’s announcement in 2022 that Currents would be shut down did not come as a big surprise.

Public (or I should say “public”, since they were only visible with a Workspace account) Currents Communities (many of them started on Google+) were migrated to Google Chat Spaces starting at the end of 2022.

The migration process was completed and Currents shut down entirely in July 2023.

It’s not quite the same, of course. Spaces is more for conversations and file sharing than it is a community with individual posts. And there is some complexity for Google Workspace organizations that want to share Spaces with people outside their organization.

But this appears to allow Google to focus on adding features to Chat, which is quite welcome.

My Currents Tutorials

Migration of Currents Communities to Google Chat Spaces is in progress
Export your Currents data before August 8

Google Chat is your organization’s communication hub

Google Chat launched in 2017 as Hangouts Chat, with a new “enterprise focus” for Hangouts. It was only available for G Suite customers.

As a personal account user looking at announced updates, the development of Chat seemed very slow. Hangouts was still around, even though it seemed to be neglected, with features gradually being retired.

My sense was that Google didn’t know what it wanted Chat to be.

But then 2020, with a massive shift to people working from home, and the need for better communication tools. Chat seemed revitalized as an essential part of the new Google Workspace.

Chat started to become available to personal Google Accounts at the end of 2020 and into 2021.

But Chat really started coming into its own in 2023. I believe two major changes allowed that:

Hangouts completely shut down in November 2022, with most conversations migrated to Google Chat. Hangouts data was only available for download through the end of 2022.

As I noted above, eligible Currents communities were migrated to Google Chat Spaces before Currents shut down in July 2023.

With the migrations completed, Google could focus on a new design and additional features.

The big changes for Google Chat in 2023 (excluding some Workspace Admin-only features):

New Design

Improved Search

New message features

Creating and managing Chat conversations and Spaces

There were a number of improvements to starting conversations and managing Space members.

More App Integrations

  • Apps in Google Chat (not to be confused with the Google Chat app) allow third party integrations in conversations and spaces. There are now more integrations available for both Workspace and personal Google Accounts.
  • While personal Google Accounts can only use the apps available from Google, Workspace users can also build their own apps.
  • Current apps include Asana, Giphy, GitHub, Google Cloud Build, Google Drive, Jenkins, Jira, Meet, PagerDuty, Salesforce, Workday, Zapier and Zendesk.
  • I especially like the improved Google Drive app, which lets you read and reply to comments on Docs, Sheets and Slides files.
  • Google Workspace users can also allow Chat to show their status from Google Calendar.

Chat in 2024

  • Chat will complete the migration of topic Spaces to in-line threading in March 2024. That will presumably then allow more feature updates.
  • In August Google started testing interoperability between Chat and Slack using Mio. This is expected to be generally available in early 2024.
  • The Chat API became generally available in July. That offers the potential for Google Chat integrations in third party apps and services.
  • Google announced Huddles last May, which are “quick to join audio and video conversations”. Those are in customer preview, and I expect them to be more widely available in 2024.

My Google Chat Tutorials

Update on migration of Google Chat Spaces with conversation topics to in-line threading

Meet Video For All

Back in 2017 Google offered three different video calling options. There was classic Hangouts video calling, simple mobile-first calling with Duo and the newly launched enterprise-oriented Hangouts Meet for meetings.

While Hangouts was clearly on the road to retirement, Duo and Meet gradually gained new features. And both took on new importance in 2020 as work, school and socializing became virtual.

But managing two entirely separate video call platforms probably wasn’t ideal for Google, and in 2022 they announced that Duo and Meet would be merged. The new Meet would have meetings (the original Meet platform) and calling (formerly Duo). No features would be removed. Instead all the options would be contained in a single app.

This merger slowly continued through 2023, but it’s not done yet.

That makes following the changes and updates for Meet a bit confusing, as some only apply to the “meetings” part of Meet and not the “calling” (or now “legacy calling”) part of Meet.

But most of the updates are for meetings.

Note that I’m not including updates for Meet hardware and meeting rooms, as those don’t apply to personal accounts.

Interoperability and Third Party Apps

Setting up, hosting and joining meetings

Participants in the meeting

Meet added new features to make meetings both more useful and more fun.

Improved presentations

Meet added the ability to manage Google Slides presentations from inside a meeting in the fall of 2022. This option is available to Google Workspace users and will hopefully eventually be available to Google Workspace Individual subscribers. There were several improvements added in 2023.

Backgrounds and AR Effects

Recordings and Live Streams

Meet meeting recording and live streaming to YouTube are included with a subscription to Google Workspace Individual or a Google One subscription with at least 2 TB storage (in eligible countries). Google Workspace users can also live stream a meeting within their organization.

Meet in 2024

In the coming year I expect to see:
  • Continuing (maybe completing?) the merger between Duo and Meet.
  • More generative AI features. This is the current trend.
  • Third party apps and services with Meet integration.
  • More third-party apps available inside meetings.

My Meet Tutorials

Live stream from a Google Meet Meeting to YouTube: Everything you need to know!
Cool halloween AR effects!

Jamboard Dies in 2024

Google’s Jamboard is a large physical whiteboard touchscreen announced in 2016 and became available for purchase in 2017. “Jams” can also be accessed, created and edited on the web at .
As the work became mostly virtual in 2020 Google focused on the web version, which was integrated with Meet meetings.

This year Google has decided to discontinue the Jamboard hardware, and when the current Jamboards reach their Auto Expiration Date in October 2024, they will not be replaced.

The web version of Jamboard will also be discontinued.