Google Hangouts logo
|Initial release||May 15, 2013|
|Platform||Android, Chrome OS, iOS, Google Chrome or any browser compatible with Google Chrome Extensions, Web platform|
Google Hangouts is a communication software product developed by Google. Originally a feature of Google+, Hangouts became a standalone product in 2013, when Google also began integrating features from Google+ Messenger and Google Talk into Hangouts. In 2017, Google began developing Hangouts into a product aimed at enterprise communication. Hangouts is now part of the G Suite line of products and consists of two primary products: Google Hangouts Meet and Google Hangouts Chat. Google has also begun integrating features of Google Voice, its IP telephony product, into Hangouts, stating that Hangouts is designed to be "the future" of Voice. Google will shut down the consumer version of Hangouts in June 2020.
Prior to the launch of Hangouts, Google had maintained several similar, but technologically separate messaging services and platforms across its suite of products. These have included the enterprise-oriented Google Talk (based on XMPP), Google+ Messenger, and the Hangouts feature of Google+, which provided chat, voice, videoconferencing features. However, its increasingly fragmented and non-unified suite of messaging offerings was also facing growing competition from services such as Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp. A decision was made to scrap the existing Google Talk system and code a new messaging product through a collaboration with multiple development teams.
On February 16, 2015, Google announced it would be discontinuing Google Talk and instructed users to migrate to the Hangouts app on the Chrome browser platform.
In January 2016, Google discouraged using Hangouts for SMS, recommending to instead use Google's "Messenger" SMS app.
In May 2016, at Google I/O 2016, Google announced two new apps: Google Allo, a messaging app with AI capabilities (AI-powered bots and selfie features) and Google Duo, a video calling app. Google's Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones released later that year were the first Google devices shipped with Duo and Allo preinstalled instead of Hangouts. Google has since confirmed that the new apps will not replace Hangouts; Hangouts will remain a separate product. In December 2018 Google announced Allo would be discontinued in March 2019 with some of its features migrated into Google Messages.
On January 6, 2017, Google announced that the Google Hangouts API would shut down on April 25, 2017.
On March 9, 2017, Google announced that Hangouts would be targeted at business users with the Hangouts brand divided into two products: Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. Hangouts Meet would focus on video conferences and Hangouts Chat would be focused on instant messaging with additional features such as bot assistant and threaded messaging. The features would be targeted at business customers while consumer versions would use a freemium model. Google stated in December 2018 that "classic" Hangouts will be disabled by October 2019.
In November 2018, the desktop Chrome app version of Hangouts started displaying these banner messages at the top of its window: "The Hangouts Chrome app will be replaced by the Hangouts Chrome extension soon." This has generated many negative user reviews on the Chrome Web Store pages for both the Hangouts extension and the app.
In August 2019, Google announced that the G-Suite version of Hangouts will be replaced by "Hangouts Meet" and "Hangouts chat", and they also announced that in June 2020, Hangouts for consumers will be shut down.
Hangouts allows conversations between two or more users. The service can be accessed online through the Gmail or Google+ websites, or through mobile apps available for Android and iOS (which were distributed as a successor to their existing Google Talk apps). However, because it uses a proprietary protocol instead of the XMPP open standard protocol used by Google Talk, most third-party applications which had access to Google Talk do not have access to Google+ Hangouts.
Chat histories are saved online, allowing them to be synced between devices. A "watermark" of a user's avatar is used as a marker to indicate how far they have read into the conversation. Photos can be shared during conversations, which are automatically uploaded into a private Google+ album. Users can also now use color emoji symbols in their messages.
As with the previous Google+ Hangouts, users can also perform a group video chat with up to 10 users at a time. In 2016 Google upgraded Hangouts to 25 concurrent users in HD video for Work/Education. The new Google Hangouts app on iOS integrates a Google Voice number to some extent, but on Android the SMS support in Hangouts doesn't fully integrate with Google Voice for calls or texts. Integration was first expected by 2014, but was deprecated in January 2016. The reason for the delay appears tied to Google switching away from the XMPP protocol it used, as mentioned above.
For Google Chrome, users do not need to install a plugin. However, for Internet Explorer 11, the user must install the "Google Talk Plugin" to be able to use the video features.
In Android 4.4, Hangouts is integrated with text messages sending and receiving functions, which is the default SMS app on the Nexus 5. For other Android phones, users can choose to open the SMS function when they download the new version of Hangouts via Google Play. SMS conversations are shown in a drawer on the left side. The update also adds GIF support and a new location-sharing button, which allows the user to send their GPS location to their contacts.
Hangouts includes the ability to make free voice calls to other Hangouts users, and charges users (via pre-registered credit) to call landline and mobile phones internationally except for calls to the United States and Canada which are free of charge. Currently, Android users must have both the Google Hangouts and Hangouts Dialer apps installed if they wish to call landline or mobile telephone numbers via the public switched telephone network. On August 15, 2016, Google announced that Hangouts on Air will be discontinued on August 1, 2019. Users will have to utilize YouTube Live for live-streaming events.
Google Hangouts includes several Easter eggs to surprise users.
Google Hangouts Meet
|Platform||Android, iOS, Web|
Google Hangouts Meet is a video communication service developed by Google. It is one of two apps that constitute the new version of Google Hangouts, the other being Google Hangouts Chat. Google will begin to retire the classic version of Hangouts in October 2019.
After being invite-only and quietly releasing an iOS app in February 2017, Google formally launched Hangouts Meet in March 2017. The service was unveiled as a video conferencing app for up to 30 participants, described as an enterprise-friendly version of Hangouts. At launch, it featured a web app, an Android app, and an iOS app. Features for G Suite users include:
- Up to 25 members per call (30 for G Suite Enterprise users)
- Ability to join meetings from the web or through the Android or iOS app
- Ability to call into meetings with a dial-in number
- Password-protected dial-in numbers for G Suite Enterprise edition users
- Integration with Google Calendar for one-click meeting calls
- Screen-sharing to present documents, spreadsheets, or presentations
- Encrypted calls between all users
- Real-time, AI-generated closed captioning
While Google Meet introduced the above features to upgrade the original Hangouts application, some standard Hangouts features were deprecated, including viewing attendees and chat simultaneously. The number of video feeds allowed at one time was also reduced to 8 (while up to 4 feeds can be shown in a "tiles" layout), prioritizing those attendees who most recently used their microphone. Additionally features such as the chat box were changed to overlay the video feeds, rather than resizing the latter to fit.
Google Hangouts Meet is a standards-based video conferencing application, using proprietary protocols for video, audio and data transcoding. Google have partnered with Pexip to provide interoperability between the Google protocol and standards-based SIP/H.323 protocols to enable communications between Hangouts Meet and other Video Conferencing equipment and software.
Google Hangouts Chat
|Platform||Android, iOS, Web|
As of May 2013, Google Hangouts faced criticism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation as they felt that Google was "moving in the wrong direction" by shrinking its support for the open standard protocol XMPP. The new protocol makes it much more difficult for multi-chat clients like Pidgin and Adium to support Google Hangouts. They must reverse engineer the protocol.
Additionally, the tight integration of Google Hangouts and Google+ can lead to the unwilling sharing of personal information with others.
On November 30, 2014, Make Use Of hailed Google Hangouts as the "best messaging app on Android by far".
As of December 9, 2015[update], Google Hangouts has a score of 2 out of 7 points on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Secure Messaging Scorecard. It has received points for having communications encrypted in transit and for having completed a recent independent security audit. It is missing points because communications are encrypted with keys that the provider has access to, users can't verify contacts' identities, past messages are not secure if the encryption keys are stolen, the code is not open to independent review, and the security design is not properly documented.
- Comparison of instant messaging clients
- Comparison of VoIP software
- Google Allo
- Google Duo
- Google Talk
- List of video telecommunication services and product brands
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