In a post on its official blog, Google laid out a simplified messaging strategy for the future. In order to offer customers "a simpler and more unified communications experience," Google promised to support only five messaging apps going forward, down from its current suite of seven.
To cut down to five apps, Google will eventually shut down Hangouts and Google Allo, while Messages, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet, Duo, and Google Voice would continue to be supported.
Google's announcement of its quintuple-app strategy comes on the heels of a report from 9to5Google, which claimed that Google Hangouts would shut down sometime in 2020. Google's Scott Johnston—a product lead for three of Google's seven messaging apps—responded to the report on Twitter, calling it "shoddy reporting" and saying it "is only half the story." While Google does plan to shut down Hangouts eventually, Johnston said that Google was also opening up two of its enterprise-only messaging apps—Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet—to its consumer user base, and users of Hangouts would be transitioned to these two apps.
The blog post reiterated that "Classic" Hangouts would eventually shut down while Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet would be opening up, but Google wouldn't shut down Hangouts until it could ensure a smooth transition between apps. The post also announced that Allo, which had its development "paused" earlier this year in favor of Messages, would be shut down in March 2019.
When they are shut down, Allo and Hangouts will join Google Talk, Google Spaces, Google Wave, Google+ Messenger, and Google Buzz in the graveyard of former Google messaging apps.
Hangouts is Google's longest-running messaging service, and it has over a billion installs on Android alone. It's the only Google messaging service that supports instant messaging, SMS, video calls, and voice calls, with clients on Android, iOS, the web, inside gmail.com, and on desktop via a Chrome extension. With such a wide and comprehensive feature set, Hangouts leaves little room for Google's other messaging products. When Hangouts is shut down, Google can better diversify its messaging user base across its five remaining apps, I guess.
"We’re excited by the progress we’ve made with our communications experience over the past few years," the company said. "And by refocusing on Messages and Duo for consumers and Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet for team collaboration, we’re focused on delivering a simpler and more unified communications experience for all of you."
The company neglected to mention Google Voice in its blog post, but understandably, the full Google messaging stack can be hard to keep track of.