Google Hangouts Is Officially Dead

Pour one out for another stalwart of the social internet: Google Hangouts is officially dead. As of November 1, 2022, any attempt to log in to Hangouts will redirect to Chat. Users who want copies of their Hangouts data will be able to request a download until January 1, 2023, at which point the data will be erased (via Google).

Google has been in the process of shuttering Hangouts and moving users to the Google Chat service for some time. On announcing its intention to migrate Hangouts to Chat in 2020, Google committed to a similar suite of functions for Chat users, including voice, video, and Hangouts' convenient integration with Gmail. 

Thus far, Google has delivered on all of those commitments. Hangouts was one of the last remnants of Google+, the company's ambitious but flawed and ultimately unsuccessful attempt at social media on the level of Facebook and Twitter. Hangouts survived as a standalone app and had some interesting effects on the global social media ecosystem.

Hard lessons learned

As we consign Google Hangouts to digital posterity, we see two lessons in its successes and ultimate failure. The first is that Hangouts — and Google+ as a whole — simply never got buy-in on the scale it needed to be sustainable. That's a lesson tech companies have been learning the hard way for as long as personal computing has been a thing. In the '80s, IBM dominated PC hardware but crashed and burned on OS/2, its attempt at a Windows-style operating system (via Ars Technica). 

In the '90s, Apple tried and failed to market the Newton, which was basically an iPhone if it were made of bricks and didn't work. Even the mighty Microsoft can't make people love its browsers. Call that Hangouts Lesson 1, then: no amount of money and advertising can force a customer base to use a product they just don't want.

The second lesson companies can take from Hangouts' failure is a bit more optimistic: fail forward. IBM took what it learned from OS/2's collapse and refocused on servers and services. Apple may have fumbled the Newton, but it figured out how to deliver a quality handheld device. Microsoft may still be pitching its browser, but at least it stopped wasting time and money trying to destroy all the others. As one of the last pieces of Google+, Hangouts represented an approach to the digital ecosystem that simply didn't work. It will be worth watching what Google can learn from its mistakes.