Last month, Google started rolling out a free version of Google Chat ahead of classic Hangouts going away. The “early preview” of Google’s latest consumer messaging service is now widely appearing for more users.

Chat and Meet, originally with “Hangouts” branding, launched in 2017 as enterprise offerings for work communication. The video calling app was the first to go free for personal usage last year, and the messaging service is now following.

It replaces the classic Hangouts mobile apps, website, and Gmail integration. Users can access it from chat.google.com, or by downloading Google Chat for Android and iOS. The web app was just redesigned to remove business-focused functionality, like bots, and curiously redirects to mail.google.com/mail/u/0/chat/#chat/welcome.

Compared to the end of last month when the Google Chat preview was first spotted going live, many more classic Hangouts users now have access to it with full functionality.

Welcome to Google Chat

Google Chat introduces a new experience and features not found in Hangouts. You might experience bugs and other issues.

Google has automatically migrated all Hangouts conversations, contacts, and saved history. This is different from how paying Workspace customers were previously able to invite any Google Account to specific threads/rooms.

The beta lets you reach and find any of your Hangouts contacts, as well as groups. Google Chat is a fairly straightforward messaging app, though there are some enterprise-leaning capabilities. This includes the ability to quickly insert files from Google Drive and create Calendar events, while all Meet videos — including 1-to-1 calls — are still link-based. One neat web feature lets you shrink and dock conversations, like in Gmail, for a great multitasking experience.

As an “early preview,” the old Hangouts service is still available and works side-by-side with messages syncing over. Google has yet to provide a deprecation timeline for consumer accounts, but did note last year that the transition would start in the first half of 2021. It’s in the process of migrating paying customers to the new experience.

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