Google details plan to replace Hangouts with free version of Chat in 2021
Google on Thursday provided an update for users who still rely on Hangouts to chat with friends and family. The search giant said in the first half of 2021, Hangouts users will be migrated to a free version of Google Chat — the Slack and Discord competitor currently available to enterprise users.
Google will automatically migrate Hangouts conversations during the transition, along with contacts and saved history. When the transition is complete, the free version of Google Chat will be available as an integrated experience in Gmail and as a standalone app.
Chat will include familiar Hangouts features, such as direct and group messaging, along with new additions, like faster search and emoji reactions. Free Google Chat users will also be able to share and collaborate on files and assign tasks. The free version of Google Chat will still include extra phishing protections as part of Google’s Safe Browsing initiative.
Because Hangouts will make way for Chat, that means Google will need to make changes to Hangouts for Google Fi users. That includes removing Fi support in Hangouts early next year. Google will instead make Messages its main platform for Fi, so it’s adding some new features in the next few weeks. Google said Fi users will be able to make voice calls and check voicemail from Messages for web, migrate their existing Hangouts conversations, and manage conversations from Messages across devices.
Google is also changing some things related to telecommunications and Hangouts with Google Voice. Later this month, Hangouts Voice users will be directed to the Voice app for text messaging and calling going forward. Voice support in Hangouts will then be removed early next year. Meanwhile, Google said in order to comply with new regulations being introduced in the EU and U.S. in 2021, it’s removing the call phones features in Hangouts. By November of this year, Google will update the group video calling experience in Hangouts with Meet.
Google said that the timing of some of these changes may shift, but with 2021 on the horizon, you may want to start preparing for the changes now.