THE INTERWEB HAS spent the weekend up in arms after reports claimed that Google was preparing to shut down one of its 37 (actual number may vary) messaging services - the venerable Google Hangouts.
Hangouts replaced the previous GTalk in 2013, adding features such as VoIP that weren't available on the XMPP platform that most messenger apps used at the time. It was originally lumped in with Google+, the soon-to-be-defunct social layer of Google.
Since the launch of Google Allo in 2017, Hangouts has been aimed at organisational customers (enterprise, education and third sector), but Allo's launch was greeted with ambivalence by everyone that doesn't work for Google, with the upshot being a large number of people remaining on Hangouts, or moving to newer services, notably WhatsApp.
Rumours started swirling on Friday after a source told 9to5Google that Hangouts would be shut down in 2020.
It was plausible, as Hangouts is more-or-less abandoned in its current form, with development focusing on two replacement apps - Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, because why have one app when you can have two.
The new versions are only available to customers of GSuite.
However, Scott Johnson, who heads up Hangouts at Google, hit back on Twitter, saying that no decisions have been made about when Hangouts 'Classic' would shut down.
He added that all Google customers will be upgraded to Chat/Meet before the original apps are depreciated completely.
This is all very confusing. There's no question that Hangouts 'Classic' has had a target on its back for some time, but it signals yet more fragmentation in a market that a decade ago was interoperable with other services running XXMP.
Add to that, the fact that it has become as temperamental as Elton John before a gig - especially when switching from WiFi to mobile and back, as anyone who ever travels on the London Underground will testify - it definitely needed a kick up the Google+. Or Arse.
In fact, at present, there's the potential for one person to require Android Messaging, Hangouts Classic, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet, Allo and Duo to cover all bases, and it's not clear what Google's logic on this is. There's also Google Spaces, but that's a whole other story.
Google has issued a statement explaining that it is ‘fully committed' to Hangouts ‘Classic' until customers are migrated and didn't give a timeline for this happening.
So in short, we still don't really know what's going on, and in any case, Google's attitude to messaging is bewildering at best. μ
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