Hangouts Chat, Google’s Slack Rival Is Now Rolling Out

Google, Slack, Hangouts Chat
Image Source: Google (screenshot)

Google will be rolling-out Hangouts Chat for the G-Suite customers over the next week. The messaging service, suitable for workplace communication, is seen as a rival to Slack.

In 2017 at Google Cloud Next, the search giant first talked about Hangouts Chat along with Hangouts Meet. While Meet was made available shortly thereafter, the Chat service was invite-only preview then. However now it is being made widely available.

“From direct messages to group conversations, Chat helps teams collaborate easily and efficiently. With dedicated, virtual rooms to house projects over time—plus threaded conversations—Chat makes it simple to track progress and follow up tasks,” Google says in a blog post.

Hangouts Chat is more relevant to the companies using G Suite rather than for general users. There are virtual rooms in the Chat for different teams, projects and tasks. Every room has a member capacity of 8000 people and the chat is available in 28 different languages.

Further, the chat service has 25 bots to connect with other G Suite apps. For instance, a user can get the latest updates on the shared files by using the handle @Drive or using @ Meet to check the calendars of other participants along with the scheduled meetings. Some bots are made by third-party companies to interface with their own services such as Xero accounting or Jira and Trello for project management, notes Engadget.

To encourage more companies to come up with their own integrations for Hangouts Chat, the search giant is also rolling out developer resources. Hangouts Chat comes with normal and threaded conversation. It is available as an app for the iOS, macOS, Windows and Android. There is a web interface as well.

For general users, Hangouts Chat, however, could be a confusing affair. There are different services that serve different purposes, like Google Duo and Allo are its customer video and text chat apps, while Hangouts Meet and Chat offers the same service for businesses. However, Allo never caught on with users, who continue to use Hangouts for chats, notes TechCrunch.

Hangouts debuted as a free service in 2013. Later, Google started molding it for businesses as it expanded its enterprise sales efforts. Speaking to Reuters, Scott Johnston, director of product management at Google, said: “I see this as the second incantation of Hangouts. We want to move toward helping people move faster at work.”

Rival Slack is already popular among businesses and has signed 50,000 paying teams as more and more professionals search for alternatives to emails for long distance communications. Microsoft offers similar features in its Office 365 package, which provides more advanced options than the G Suite, notes Reuters.

Though all these service providers offer almost similar features, each adds something peculiar on top of it to separate it from the others. For instance, Google focuses on bots like @Meet and @Drive.

Separately, the search engine giant also launched the smart scheduling service for the G Suite to allow users to find a convenient room for a bi-weekly status meeting. Further, Google announced the launch of Quick Access in Docs, which uses machine learning to automatically surface the most relevant files, something similar to the Quick Access feature that already exists in Drive.