Google announced in March 2017 that it would split Hangouts, its cross-platform messaging service, into two core apps — Hangouts Chat, a Slack-like tool for teams, and Hangouts Meet, a Skype-like videoconferencing application — and that both enterprise G Suite users and consumers would be migrated from classic Hangouts sometime this year. Today, it revealed a timeline.
Starting April 16, Chat will become available on the web for G Suite domains that have classic Hangouts enabled, but it won’t replace Hangouts just yet. Between April and September 2018, several Hangouts features will come to Chat, ahead of the former’s shutdown in October.
On April 16, mail retention rules and holds in Google Vault will stop protecting messages in classic Hangouts, Google says, and will start protecting chat messages in both classic Hangouts and Chat. Admins, meanwhile, will see new settings that control chat features in Hangouts and Chat, in addition to a new setting in the Admin console under Apps > G Suite > Hangouts Chat that’ll allow them to disable Hangouts user interfaces at any time.
Between April and September, Google says that Chat will integrate with Gmail and gain the ability to exchange messages with external users. Additionally, it’ll get an “improved video calling experience,” plus voice calls powered by Google Voice.
As for non-enterprise users, Google says they can expect to see a free version of Chat and Meet following the G Suite transition. The Mountain View company declined to detail those “free” tiers today, but last year, it told The Verge that Chat and Meet will follow a “freemium” model, with as-yet unspecified features locked behind a subscription paywall.
Coinciding with the news, Google today rolled out two new features in the Admin console designed to “help G Suite admins better understand and manage … usage” of Hangouts Meet within their organizations. The Meet quality tool provides access to meeting information in domains, and Hangouts Meet activity logs — found under Reports > Audit > Hangouts Meet — show both high-level and detailed views on usage.
The announcements come after Google said it would shut down Allo, the messaging service it launched in September 2016 in an attempt to build a modern messaging app from scratch. (Google “paused” work on Allo in April.)