When it launched in 2013, Google Hangouts was Google’s all-in-one messaging platform as it had replaced Google Talk. Only three years later, however, Google opted to sideline Hangouts for consumers in favor of Allo and Duo. Instead, Google targeted Hangouts for businesses. Then, in March 2017, Google announced Hangouts Chat along with Hangouts Meet. Despite its name, Hangouts Chat is more similar to Slack instead of Hangouts.
For nearly a year, Hangouts Chat has only been available to companies as part of an Early Adopter Program. This changes now as Google has announced that it’s making Chat generally available as a core G Suite service.
Hangouts Chat is a competitor to Slack, which is one of the most popular solutions for work group messaging and collaboration. Other competitors include Microsoft Teams, and a preliminary look at its functionality seems to show that Chat has a good enough feature set to compete with Slack.
According to Google, Hangouts Chat helps teams “collaborate easily and efficiently.” It has dedicated virtual rooms to house projects over time, including threaded conversations, which is said to make it simple to track progress and follow up tasks.
Chat is integrated with other G Suite apps. Users can upload items from Drive, collaborate on Google’s productivity suite, join online meetings with Hangouts Meet, or use Google’s search tool to search for room members, past conversations, and shared files. They can also use Google’s AI to speed up manual work, such as booking conference rooms and searching for files.
Chat is said to be secure. Google says that it builds on G Suite’s “security-first ecosystem” and offers an “enterprise-grade solution” that’s reliable as well as compliant. It has integrated support for Vault, which means that administrators can archive, preserve, search and export Chat-specific data.
One of the more compelling features of Chat is that it comes with 25 bots to help speed up workflows, according to Google. These workflows range from finance and HR to CRM, project management and more. Bots like the @GoogleDrive bot and the @Meet bot are integrated directly with other G Suite apps. The @GoogleDrive bot lets users know when files are shared with them, comments are made, or when people request access to their documents. The @Meet bot, on the other hand, has direct integration with Calendar to schedule meetings for users. Google adds that users can also build integrations on top of Chat to incorporate the tools they use.
Google is promoting Hangouts Chat as a tool to collaborate with colleagues around the globe. It currently supports 28 languages, and each room can support up to 8000 members.
Chat is compatible with Hangouts, and it works with users’ existing contacts. It has a web client at chat.google.com, and it’s available on desktop for Windows and macOS as well as on mobile for Android and iOS.. Chat will be made available over the next week, according to Google. Users can learn more about it here.