Google to Shutter Hangouts API as It Refocuses on the Enterprise

Google revealed to developers that it intends to shut down the Google Hangouts API on April 25th. The change means developers will not be able to create new apps using the API, and any existing apps that rely on the API will effectively be left for dead on their feet.

The Google Hangouts API is intended for desktop apps and allows developers to create new and fun ways for people to enjoy video hangouts. For example, the API let developers build games within Hangouts, let people use their entire body (think charades) to communicate, or let people draw silly images on top of Hangouts for a laugh. It provided real-time functionality and synced data between participants in a way that behaved like normal webpages.

Google didn't make a formal announcement regarding the change. The company often announces API shutdowns with detailed blog posts; instead, it simply changed the Hangouts API's FAQ website and sent an email to developers who make use of the API.

"In order to streamline our efforts further, we will be retiring the Google+ Hangouts API that enables developers to build apps for the older version of Hangouts video calls," said the email, a copy of which was obtained by TechCrunch. "This API was originally intended to support social scenarios for consumer users as part of Google+, whereas Hangouts is now turning to focus on enterprise use cases."

Google transitioned Google Hangouts from a full-fledged social network to a community- and topic-driven destination several years ago. Google Hangouts remains one of the best features to come from the failed experiment and Google was smart to see the tool's appeal to business users. The powerful video calling platform from Google, which is free to use, competes with similar, costly tools from enterprise players such as Cisco. Google is still refining Hangouts' role in the enterprise, but apparently consumer-friendly features like silly stickers are no longer appropriate.

Despite the API's retirement, Google isn't killing off all functionality and there are some exceptions. For example, developers' apps will still be able to dial into a Hangout via DialPad and RingCentral. Moreover, enterprise chat apps including Slack, Cameraman, Control Room, and Hangouts On Air will still work with Google Hangouts. The mobile Google Hangouts messaging and video chatting app that appears on Android devices will still be available and continue to function as it does today.

Unfortunately, this change does not add clarity to Google's larger mobile messaging mess. The company has de-emphasized Hangouts and Messaging on smartphones in favor of the new apps Duo and Allo -- and yet all four apps are still available to consumers.

Developers have until April 25 to get their Google Hangouts API affairs in order.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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