What Google Workspace admins need to know about the Hangouts to Chat transition

Google Workspace administrators may want to consider the five Hangouts and Chat service settings, then communicate planned changes to everyone in their organization.

Shows 5 options: Chat preferred, Chat and classic Hangouts, Chat only, Classic Hangouts only, Both turned off (along with the Chat and Hangouts icon next to each, where each service is active)

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

At one time, Hangouts functioned as the central hub for several of Google’s communication services. With the installation of a single app, people who used Hangouts could chat with other Hangouts users, message via SMS, video conference, and handle calls via Google Voice. But by the end of 2021, for people with Google Workspace accounts, Google intends to replace Hangouts with other apps, including Google Chat, Google Meet, Google Voice as well as Messages (on Android).

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Google lets Google Workspace administrators adjust a setting that controls access to Chat and classic Hangouts apps. If an administrator does nothing, at some point Hangouts apps will stop working and Chat will be the only option for people in the organization.

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Some Google Workspace administrators, however, will want to follow the steps below to make the move from classic Hangouts to Google Chat as smooth as possible. Keep in mind these steps only apply to Workspace administrators.

  1. Sign in to the Google Workspace Admin console.
  2. Navigate to the Google Chat and Classic Hangouts Service Settings.
  3. Review the five service options (Figure A):
  • Chat Preferred (Recommended For Migration): This option allows classic Hangouts to continue to work on the web and makes Chat the default option in Gmail–both on the web and in the mobile Gmail apps on Android and iOS.
  • Chat And Classic Hangouts: Like the Chat Preferred option above, both Classic Hangouts and Chat remain active. However, this option keeps Classic Hangouts active as the default for chats in Gmail.
  • Chat Only: Select this option to prevent access to Classic Hangouts and only allow people to use Google Chat.
  • Classic Hangouts Only: Select this option to prevent access to Google Chat and only allow people to use Classic Hangouts. 

Note: Most Workspace administrators should not select this option, unless there’s an intent to never deploy the newer Google Chat client.

  • Both turned off: An administrator might choose this in cases where the organization relies on a third-party chat tool. For example, an organization that uses Microsoft Teams, Slack, Mattermost or Twist might choose to turn access to Chat and Hangouts off. 

Figure A

Screenshot of Workspace service options, that show all 5 choices detailed in the article text.Screenshot of Workspace service options, that show all 5 choices detailed in the article text.

Google Workspace administrators may want to review Chat and classic Hangouts options, then discuss the timing of any changes with people in their organization. 

As with many Google Workspace admin console settings, you may select a different service option for different groups of people if you configure Workspace organizational units.

Choose how quickly you want people to move from Hangouts to Google Chat

Before you make any changes, discuss the timing and steps needed to transition from Classic Hangouts to Google Chat with people in your organization. Google’s Chat service consolidation help page provides key details that people involved in these discussions should review.

In organizations where people currently use classic Hangouts, I would advise a Google Workspace administrator to:

  1. Leave the setting at the Chat And Classic Hangouts option.
  2. Select a date to switch the setting to Chat Preferred.

Note: Both of these settings allow active use of Classic Hangouts and Google Chat. There are key differences between Hangouts and Chat with regard to group membership management (fixed or changeable), conversation ownership (by group members or by the organization) and access to external participants (allowed or prohibited). Review Google’s Chat and classic Hangouts interoperability help page for details.

Communicate the changes and timetable to everyone in the organization

In general, communication will work best when everyone uses the same chat client, whether that is Hangouts or Chat. A move from Hangouts to Chat will mean that people may want to:

  1. Install Google Chat on mobile devices (Android, iOS).
  2. Bookmark Google Chat in web browser or, if desired, install the web app from Chrome, when prompted.
  3. Start all new conversations in the Google Chat client.

Let people know a bit about the transition and encourage them to take the above steps as part of the change. Of course, if you manage devices or Chrome bookmark configurations, you also might choose to install Google Chat app and add the bookmark automatically. Either way, make sure to give people a reasonable amount of time to prepare. See the companion article to this one, Classic Hangouts to Google Chat transition: What users need to know, for practical advice to help people in your organization switch.

Also let people know the date that you will switch to the Chat preferred setting. In the U.S., you might choose Sept. 7, 2021 (the day after Labor Day) as the date to adjust the setting and switch to Chat preferred. You also might encourage people to uninstall Hangouts and remove any Hangouts bookmarks after they’ve successfully installed and configured Chat and determine that they no longer need classic Hangouts.

What’s your experience or plan?

If you’re a Google Workspace administrator, what steps have you taken to smooth the transition from Hangouts to Google Chat for people in your organization? How long do you plan to allow both Hangouts and Chat to be used? Do you plan to move to Chat Preferred soon? Let me know what your timeline and communications approach has been, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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