Google Hangouts is a communication platform developed by Google which includes instant messaging, video chat, SMS and VOIP features. It replaces three messaging products that Google had implemented concurrently within its services, including Google Talk, Google+ Messenger (formerly: Huddle), and Hangouts, a video chat system present within Google+. Google has also stated that Hangouts is designed to be "the future" of its telephony product, Google Voice, and integrated some of the capabilities of Google Voice into Hangouts.
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.
Following reports that the new service would be known as "Babel", the service officially launched as Hangouts during the Google I/O conference on May 15, 2013.
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 updated the app to tell people not to use it 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, an AI-based messaging app and Google Duo, a video calling app. Google has since confirmed that the new apps will not replace Hangouts - Hangouts will remain a separate product.
Google's Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones will ship with Google Duo and Allo instead of Hangouts.
On January 6, 2017, Google announced that the Google Hangouts API will shut down on April 25, 2017.
On March 9, 2017, Google announced that it would be evolving Hangouts 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.
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 upgrade Hangout 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 into 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.
As of version 2.3 (September 12, 2014), 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 September 12. Users will have to utilize YouTube Live for live-streaming events.
Google Hangouts includes several Easter eggs to surprise users. Most of the Easter eggs will appear on all users of the hangout with the exception of "/ponystream" and the Konami Code.Typing "woot" would let a yellow animated emoji-like face crawl up the screen and laugh in your face or a fox with a birdie on his head waving two flags. This also corresponds to typing "woohoo", "woo hoo", "yay!!" (at least 2 exclamation marks), and "hooray!" (at least 1 exclamation mark). Typing "rawr xddddd" also has the same effect.
Typing "happy birthday" would let a cake be rolled out by a fox and a birdie on top of the cake. This also corresponds to typing "happy bday" or "happy b-day".
Typing "happy new year" would let out a fox and goose dancing and a few fireworks.
Typing "hahahaha" would let the yellow emoji-like face crawl up or a fox and a goose laughing at each other. This also corresponds to typing "ha ha ha ha", "hehehehe", "he he he he", " " or using five "ha"s or "he"s. Also works by typing "lolol" (3 "l"s to 6 "l"s), "rotfl", "kkkk", and also "lmao".
Typing "/ponies" would let an animated pony (similar to the ones from My Little Pony) prance across the screen. There are a total of 21 different ponies. Typing "/ponystream" would unleash infinite ponies all running in different directions on your screen (only left and right). To stop the ponystream, type in "/ponystream" again.
Typing "/shydino" would let a dinosaur hiding behind a house appear on the screen. To make the dinosaur and the house disappear, simply type in "/shydino" again,
Typing "/bikeshed" would change the colour of the background of the hangout screen. The colour varies for all users so typing "Look! Pink!" wouldn't be advised.
Typing "/pitchforks" would let out a whole mob of little people carrying pitchforks and torches. There are more than 16 different little people. Some mobs are short while some are long.
Applying the Konami Code (i.e. up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Enter) would change the background of the hangout screen into a beautiful view of nature. One can only do the code once. To do it again, one must close the hangout window and reopen it.
Typing "/roll" would display your icon showing that you've rolled a number. You can roll anything from a 1 to 6, just like a regular die.
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 to Google+ can lead to the unwilling sharing of personal information to others.
As of December 9, 2015, 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 not encrypted with keys that the provider doesn't have 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.
On November 30, 2014, Make Use Of hailed Google Hangouts as the "best messaging app on Android by far".