Hangouts is a rather odd messaging app. It seems to just exist, can be useful for people heavily invested in Google’s suite of offerings, but at the same time, it isn’t particularly functional either.
It’s way behind in terms of features and has been in limbo for a very long time.
Yesterday, finally, Google announced a whole slew of updates to Hangouts. The new updates are still in beta and are opt-in via an early access program, but they’re quite interesting and many of the new features bear a striking resemblance to Slack.
First up is Hangouts Meet. Video conferencing is always a bit of an issue, especially with a large number of participants, and Google wants to fix that.
Hangouts Meet basically strips out the complexity of video conferencing by eliminating the need for plugins, sign-ins, etc. and can be kicked off with nothing more than a browser and a shared link, calendar invite or an ad-hoc share. The mobile app can also be used to join in.
Google claims to have streamlined the interface to make it lighter, faster and smoother as well and claim that running even 30-person video conferencing will be smooth and easy.
Meet also supports full-screen presentations, tight-integration with Google Suite and a dial-in option for enterprise customers.
Next up is Hangouts Chat. This one is most like Slack. You get virtual rooms for discussion, like channels, chat threads for dealing with, well, threads, in-built document sharing (via Google Suite) and search functionality.
Interestingly, the new Hangouts Chat platform also supports bots and scripts and third-party application support. The Google Assistant equivalent in here is called @meet, a bot that will use natural language processing and machine learning to “automatically schedule meetings for your team with Hangouts Meet and Google Calendar.”
Google says that Hangouts Meet is available right now and that customers will need to apply for a trial of Hangouts Chat separately. You’ll need to be a G Suite customer to access these services.