Google has a very complicated history with messaging apps. Just when you think Google has found a solution, it gets abandoned or rebranded. Google Chat is a key part of this history, but what is it even nowadays? Here’s everything you need to know about Google Chat.
Here’s a rough list of all the messaging apps—not including email—that Google has had over the years (at the time of writing):
- Google Talk (retired)
- Google Hangouts (being replaced)
- Google Allo (retired)
- Google Duo
- Messages by Google
- Google Voice
- Google Meet
- Google Chat
Google Chat Started with Hangouts
Google Hangouts was released in 2013, and while it had its day in the sun, it eventually fell out of favor. Google Chat is one of two services that is replacing Hangouts. Chat is the text arm, while Google Meet is the video arm.
However, Google Chat is quite a bit different than Hangouts. From the beginning, Hangouts was a product for consumers. It was designed to be an instant messaging app that anyone with a Google account could use. It also integrated SMS texting in the Android app.
Chat, on the other hand, started as an enterprise service for Google Workspace (previously known as G Suite). It has more in common with services like Slack than it does with the old Google Hangouts. Once Hangouts is officially retired, Google Chat will be available for everyone.
What Is Google Chat for?
As mentioned above, Google Chat is closer to a Slack competitor than a Hangouts replacement. What does that actually mean? In short, it’s a messaging app built for teams. Chat is available on desktop, iPhone, iPad, and Android.
Organizations and groups can create Google Chat servers for their employees and members. Rather than having all conversations happen in a single stream like a typical group chat, Google Chat can be organized into “Rooms.”
Rooms make it possible to have more focused chat spaces. You can set up a Room for a discussion about a specific event or project. All conversations about the topic can happen in that Room, and it can include only the people who need to be involved.
The other benefit of Rooms is the ability to control notifications. Maybe you’re included in several Rooms, but only one or two take priority. For those Rooms, you can enable notifications for all messages. In the less important Rooms, maybe you only want to be notified when someone mentions you.
Google Chat is also home to private one-on-one conversations. You can easily start up a chat with anyone who’s on your server. So whether it’s a group discussion or a private conversation, Chat becomes the centralized location for all of your group’s communication.
Google Meet, the aforementioned video arm that split from Hangouts, is also present in Google Chat. This is where you can start, schedule, and join video meetings for your team. It’s quick and easy to hop into a Meet call for short chats or longer meetings.
Google Through and Through
One of the big benefits of Google Chat is right there in the name—Google. If your organization is already using Google Workspace or many other Google services, it makes sense to use Chat.
Google Chat has a lot of integration with other Google services. Just click into the reply box, and you’ll see icons for Google Drive, Docs, Calendar, and Meet. The sidebar also has shortcuts to Google Calendar, Google Keep, and Google Tasks. That’s a lot of Google.
Say you want to share a Google Doc with a Room in Google Chat. When you paste the link to the Doc, Chat will automatically give permission to everyone in the Room to view and comment on it. None of those annoying “I can’t see it” moments.
Since this is a Google product, Search is a big feature. The ever-present search bar at the top enables you to find nearly anything that you might need from the server. That includes people, conversations, shared files, links, and more.
Long Live Google Chat … for Now
Google Chat had a rough beginning, but it seems that the company has figured out what it’s for. It’s a communication tool for organizations and groups. People who are using Google Workspace will feel obligated to use Chat. Eventually, everyone will be able to use it for free. It’s come a long way since Google Hangouts.
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