At last year’s Cloud Next, Google started testing the ability for Hangouts Chat users to contact people outside of their domain. Google Chat next week will gain the ability to invite any Gmail and Google Account as a guest.

Whether you’re talking to customers, coordinating with a vendor, or trying to keep in touch with your students’ parents, you’ll now be able to use Google Chat with your key contacts. With this change, you can keep all of your communication in one central place.

This new ability expands Chat from just being an internal team communication service. You’ll be able to send direct messages to other G Suite users not in your business and those with free Gmail accounts. There’s also the ability to add those two groups of people to rooms.

The person you’re inviting as a guest must have a Google Account, and they will be marked with a yellow “External” badge in Chat to make “sure you’re sharing information with the right people.” There’s also a distinction between rooms and group chat, with guest accounts now allowed in the latter.

Additionally, you’ll need to designate a room as “External” when you create it, and you won’t be able to change this setting after the room is created. This means you won’t be able to add external users to any rooms created before this launch, as those will remain “internal.”

Meanwhile, conversations with external users in classic Hangouts will also appear in Chat as new messages are sent. This capability is rolling out today.

The broader support for Gmail guests in Google Chat will start rolling out on May 26 and be available for all G Suite users in the coming weeks. It follows the rebrand from Hangouts Chat and comes as Google Chat will soon be integrated directly into Gmail.

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