Google's history with messaging services has been a mess. And just when it seemed it was kind of getting its act together, the search giant has once again invited Mr Cock-Up to visit and make life more confusing for users. Hangouts for consumers is disappearing and there doesn't seem to be a clear plan for what's next. It's like the company didn't learn anything from the time it killed Google Reader.
Google Hangouts was the consolidation of a number of different services. Google's reputation for creating services and not really knowing what they plan for them - the equivalent of throwing up application "thought bubbles" - can be really frustrating for users. Hangouts brought together Google Talk, Google+ Messenger and Google+ Hangouts. That was a good thing as it simplified life.
But the former Hangouts services, Meet and Chat, were split out for enterprise users and this seems to be part of what's happening with Google.
After offering Hangouts for free, it's now looking like the service has a limited shelf life according to reports from 9to5Google. They're saying Hangouts will disappear in 2020 although Google has offered some a half-hearted denial saying "users of consumer Hangouts users will be somehow “upgraded” to Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet". Given those are enterprise products, at least they are at the moment, it's hard to tell what's going on.
The challenge for users is that we can't really trust that a product Google releases will be here for more than a couple of years before being either altered significantly, subsumed into another profit or deprecated completely. And while it seems Google's plan is to move customers to an "enterprise" set of services (which, I think, is its word for "paid") there are other more stable options to choose from.
It's little wonder I'm seeing people slowly move away from Google's business products towards other platforms which are perceived to be more stable.