Hangouts on the desktop has always been a mess. First, there was the Chrome extension that always sits in your taskbar/menubar, with separate windows for every conversation. Later, Google released a Chrome app that looked (and functioned) much more like the Android app, with all of your conversations in one window. For some reason, both have remained on the Chrome Web Store.
Recently, Google announced that they will phase out Chrome apps, with Google recommending that existing apps be converted into extensions or Progressive Web Apps. The official Google Apps blog quietly announced today that an updated version of the old Hangouts extension will be available soon, with a user interface that looks almost identical to the current Chrome app (if the screenshot above is accurate).
Users will be able to opt-in to the new interface starting on August 31 (with a rollout period of a few days), and new users will see the new interface by default. If you don't like change, you will be able to use the old interface until October 16.
I assume that the new extension will continue to run in the taskbar/menu bar as it always has, compared to the Chrome app having its own icon on the New Tab screen or Chrome App Launcher. We can only wait to find out.
The old Chrome extension has been updated on September 8 and does now indeed look like the Chrome app with a single window that is driving those of us who like to talk to several people insane. And if you were wondering, it still runs in the menubar/taskbar like it did before.
- Google Apps Updates