Pretty soon, Gchat, or "Google Talk," will be gone forever. RIP Gchat. It's been a hell of a ride, and I'm not ready to see you go.
As you might've noticed, Google is unilaterally force-quitting your option to revert to Gchat. Over the last few years, this has been a nice cheat for people, like me, who don't like Google Hangouts or change. But in two months, whether we're ready or not, it'll be byebye to the beloved messaging service.
Google unceremoniously announced that it would be killing Gchat in a blog post last month.
"Hangouts offers advanced improvements over Google Talk such as group video calling and integration with other Google products," the company wrote. "With the introduction of Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, which add further improvements in meetings and team collaboration, it is now time to say goodbye to Google Talk."
Mmmmmm, what, no. Since its launch in 2013, Hangouts has been one long, bug-ridden journey.
Almost immediately after its debut, a faction of OG 'chatters protested the service, and rightly so. Hangouts was slow, heavy, and intrusive. It was, and still is, an aggressively worse form of Google+, the company's failed social platform. In place of simple emoticons came, as John Brownlee put it, "a library of the ugliest ones you've ever seen, designed by Google's resident Fentanyl addict." Even Hangouts' prime offering, the ability to video conference with other Gmail users—which, face it, only your employers make you use—was clunky and tedious, often freezing up in the middle of calls.
Basically, the whole thing was just too much.
None of that matters now, because Google is taking away our favorite means of work-day procrastination. Maybe Google knows that Gchat is a pervasive timesuck. Maybe this is all a psyop to discourage us from goofing off.
I tried to get in touch with Google to share my feelings. In its reply to me, a spokesperson simply copied and pasted a portion of the blog post I'd just linked to. They also referred me to an article by The Verge which insensitively said of the transition: "You've got plenty of other options to use going forward," such as Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Android Messages, Voice, and Supersonic Fun Voice Messenger—all of which are bloated and/or have very few users.
Additionally, I also tracked down a general hotline for Google's Mountain View campus and talked to an operator there. Why, I asked, is Google doing this to us? Can you please explain what I'm supposed to do if I love Gchat but hate Hangouts?
While she was sure that I "had extensively researched these questions on the internet," the operator generously agreed to look into my queries. After being put on hold for a few minutes, however, she returned with no answers. I asked if others had complained about the switch, and while no one had called her specifically, she wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't alone in my concerns.
Next, I tried the Hangouts Help Forum, where people can post questions for the Hangouts team. I was comforted to find that other users were similarly distressed. "Hangouts is simply not a suitable replacement…and you obviously don't care," someone named Velvet Sky wrote. "What SIMPLE chat program can I use now? Hangouts not an option," said jjiimm_64.
"I am disappointed in you Google," jjiimm_64 (JIM???) added.
The only semi-useful response was a suggestion to try Google Allo, a messaging app which, "if you care at all about your privacy," my colleague Jason Koebler once wrote, you should not use. (Allo, despite offering end-to-end encryption, also allows a chatbot called Google Assistant to peer into your conversations unless disabled through "incognito mode.")
After some mildly strenuous research, I never discovered an antidote to my sad feelings. I know it's pointless to get attached to technology, but Gchat was the only messaging service that valued the messaging part over the actual service. Plus, unlike other messaging apps that are fragmented and niche, Gchat came with added benefit of everyone (or at least most people) already being on Gmail. It was minimalist, discreet, and intimate—values that are hard to come by in an age where everything must be scalable, social, and platform-ized.
Oh, well. At least I have two months to prepare.