In context: If there's one thing Google is known for, it's launching -- and then later shutting down -- dozens upon dozens of services, no matter how old they might've been. Indeed, this practice is so commonplace at Google HQ that someone has developed and maintained a site called the Google Graveyard, which keeps track of past and future service shutdowns, planned or already executed by Google.
For better or worse, Google's once-popular Hangouts communication platform is joining the Google Graveyard in the first half of 2021. It's the end of an era, in a sense -- Hangouts has been around for the better part of a decade, and it offered combined video, voice, and text chat functionality.
It wasn't perfect, as any of its faithful users can attest, and it was arguably abandoned after some time, but it was still a handy service that we're sure at least some people will miss. However, it's not all bad news today. Google almost always has a transition plan in place for users of its shuttered services, and that's the case this time around as well.
Next year, Google's "Chat" service, which is currently only available to Google Workspace customers, will be arriving for everybody, whether they're a Workspace subscriber or not.
Chat already includes "familiar Hangouts features" like direct and group messaging, so Google is considering this transition an "upgrade." However, Chat is missing many of Hangouts' other key features, such as voice and video chat, so you will have to look elsewhere for alternatives to that functionality. Fortunately, if you do decide to switch, your message history will be automatically migrated.
When Chat opens its doors to all, it will be available as either a standalone app, or a Gmail-integrated sub-app. Google hasn't offered a more specific timeline for Hangouts' shutdown, but if we had to guess, we'd say it will likely take place between March and May.
Middle image credit: Big Tuna Online