Google quietly ends support for Hangouts-based apps


Developers creating apps using the application programming interface for Google Inc.’s video and chat app Google Hangouts will have to look elsewhere, soon as the company focuses more on two new video and chat apps introduced last year.

With a few exceptions, third-party application access to the platform will end April 25. The company didn’t even officially announce the abandonment of the API. Instead, the notice came in the form of an updated Frequently Asked Questions page outlining the termination, and an email to developers active on the platform.

According to the company the API is currently unsupported, but apps using it will continue to run until April 25. After that date, most Hangouts apps will cease to function. Users of Hangouts apps will receive a notice warning that it will cease functioning after April 25.

A few exceptions will persist after the deadline, including those using the ability to dial into a call (such as DialPad and RingCentral apps), enterprise application integrations (such as Slack) and Hangouts on Air broadcasting tools (Toolbox, Control Room and Cameraman).

“We understand this will impact developers who have invested in our platform,” the company writes in the FAQ. “We have carefully considered this change and believe that the latest updates allow us to give our users a more targeted Hangouts desktop video experience going forward.”

The company notes that the original vision for Google Hangouts was to “support social scenarios for consumer users as part of Google+.” Now the company is turning Hangouts more toward the enterprise continuing support for Hangouts apps with enterprise features.

Google Duo to supplant Hangouts for social?

First announced at Google I/O 2016, Google Duo and Allo appear to be the focus for Google’s consumer and social aligned mobile video and chat. The Duo application is available for Android and iOS but it does not have a desktop application connection.

This change removes flexibility from developers seeking to design for consumer-focused applications that cross platforms from mobile to desktop. No current Google projects appear to cross this gap and there is no news that the company plans to bridge it.

This is not the first time that Google has abandoned a project, leaving developers in a lurch as the company’s attentions shifted or a project had failed to catch on.

Previous examples include Google Wave (now Apache Wave), a real-time collaborative editing engine designed for group tasks announced in 2009 and shut down in 2012, and Google Reader, a feed aggregator for reading online newspapers and blogs, launched in 2005 and shut down in 2013.

Google Wave lasted about a year and a half, from May 2010 through November 2011, before the company began its final phase out in 2012. The shutdown of Google Reader led to a petition that exceeded 150,000 signatures.

Google Hangouts itself does not appear to be on the chopping block, given its new enterprise focus, but its use in other apps for casual social video calls and chatting is nearly over.

Featured image credit: By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid EngineOwn work, CC0, Link