You know what time it is. It’s the weekly Google-Apps-update-extravaganza! This week, Google has mysteriously decided to bump Hangouts from version 8 to version 10.
What’s changed? After using the app for a couple of minutes, there are some minor changes here and there. Let’s run down what we’ve found so far:
- Decreased image size in the chat window
- Direct sharing
- Notification bug fixes for Android N users
Seems pretty minor for what’s supposed to be a big version bump, no? What’s inside the APK tells a different story about this update – that Google hasn’t yet given up on Hangouts as a chat platform.
Sure, they’re sending us mixed messages what with the convoluted mess that is Allo and Duo but it’s nice to see that the aging Hangouts app still has more to offer. Well, at the very least, Hangouts is finally getting a feature that has existed on dozens of other chat platforms for some time now – the ability to send public group invitational links so that anyone can join your group chat simply by clicking the link. Other popular group messaging applications like Telegram or Discord offer these capabilities already, so Google is merely playing catch-up here.
Disclaimer: The evidence we dig up from the APK file of an app is not definitive. Google may choose to pull these features without any indication in a future release.
Group Invitations are Finally Here, But Is it Ready?
Within the latest Hangouts 10.0 APK, there are some strings that are pretty clearly pointing towards the introduction of group link sharing. I’ll let the evidence speak for itself:
<string name="conversation_group_link_sharing_option_button_text">Share Group Invite Link</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_sharing_option_title">Group Invite Link</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_sharing_option_enabled_description">Link sharing on</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_sharing_option_disabled_description">Link sharing off, tap to enable</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_sharing_option_dialog_title">Link sharing is now enabled</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_sharing_option_dialog_message">People who join this group can see all previous messages in this Hangout.</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_sharing_option_dialog_confirm">Got it</string>
<string name="conversation_dialog_retrieving_group_link">Retrieving conversation link</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_request_failed">Failed to retrieve conversation link</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_description_text">Join the conversation on Hangouts</string>
<string name="conversation_group_link_share_intent_text">Share link</string>
So first of all, when you’re in a group conversation there will be a new option for you to click called “Share Group Invite Link.” Clicking this will generate a URL that you can share with anyone to join your group conversation. Sharing this link with someone will allow them to see the entire history of your group chat when they join, so they won’t be missing out on anything you’ve been talking about. Hangouts will bring up a share intent that will allow you to share this link in whatever app you want. Who can enable link sharing within the group? It doesn’t look like there are any restrictions judging from these strings, unfortunately. As seen in the strings below, however, you will at the very least be notified whenever someone else has enabled/disable group link sharing.
<string name="system_message_enabled_group_link_sharing">You enabled sharing the group conversation through links</string>
<string name="system_message_enabled_group_link_sharing_external">%s enabled sharing the group conversation through links</string>
<string name="system_message_disabled_group_link_sharing">You disabled sharing the group conversation through links</string>
<string name="system_message_disabled_group_link_sharing_external">%s disabled sharing the group conversation by link</string>
Being able to share a group link is a step in the right direction, but I really hope Google doesn’t release this feature half-baked. It would be pretty awesome to be able to share a public URL to create a Hangouts group chat, but Google would really need to add group moderation features as well as improve the performance of the app, as I would imagine large groups would pretty significantly slow down the app in its current form. If you’re looking to add small numbers of known contacts to a Hangouts group, however, then shared links should do the job just fine.
That’s all we found in the latest Google Hangouts update. Stay tuned to future posts in our series when we investigate what’s new and what’s coming in Google’s Apps.