Google's messaging strategy continues to perplex us all, but perhaps there's some light at the end of the tunnel? Everyone working on communication tools at Google was recently brought into a single unified team, which will hopefully lead to more consolidated efforts in the future (we can but hope). And another step on the road to finally doing away with the old Hangouts has been announced. G Suite users are now able to see their classic Hangouts conversations in Google Chat so everything is in one place.
Until now, it's possible that business users were using Google Chat to talk to members of their own organization while having to use classic Hangouts to speak with other contacts (all with the same Google account). Those old Hangouts conversations will now appear in Google Chat alongside internal ones, so there's no need to use two apps for the same purpose any longer. The rollout started yesterday but it may take a couple of weeks to reach everyone.
Furthermore, it'll soon be possible for G Suite users to message other G Suite users from outside their organization starting May 26. Anyone not in your company will have an "External" label next to their name in the Google Chat UI so there's no confusion. You'll also be able to add any contacts to group chats so long as you designate them as "External." This will only apply to new rooms, though — any you've already created will have to remain internal-only rooms.
While this news is only relevant for business users right now, it's the first proper step from Google towards getting rid of Hangouts for good. When Allo's shutdown was confirmed, Google said it would eventually allow everyone to use Hangouts Chat and Meet, which are now Google Chat and Meet, respectively. In a move likely accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic, Google Meet is now available to everyone, so Google Chat ought to be next. The next logical step would be to convert classic Hangouts users on the consumer side to Google Chat, but who knows how long that will take, or if Google will introduce seven new chat apps in the meantime. When it comes to Google and messaging apps, anything is possible really.