About a month ago, the first signs of Google Chat opening up to the general population surfaced, with hints of a preview experience that would slow rollout Chat availability beyond the Google Workspace crowd. Over the weekend, that preview started going live, plus there’s a new web experience that is opening up too.
For those interested in giving Chat a try and starting the process of moving on from Google Hangouts, all you need to do is open up the Google Chat app to see if your account has been given access. If it has, you should see the pop-up below that says “Welcome to Google Chat” and that this app “introduces a new experience and features not found in Hangouts.” It does mention that because it’s a “preview,” you “might experience bugs and other issues.”
I picked up access on Saturday and we’ve seen reports of others getting it as well.
If you haven’t had the chance to tryout Google Chat yet, prepare for some differences between this and the Hangouts experience you know. First of all, it has a dark theme, which is awesome. You’ll also get link previews too, more options at the bottom of a chat for attaching things (images, Drive links, video, calendar events, etc.), and a UI that is modern and on-par with other Google apps.
Unfortunately, group chats might not work. I have some long-standing group chats in my personal Chat account that do show up, but not all of them. You also can’t create a group chat at the moment, as Google is clearly testing things and slow rolling features just like availability, and when you send someone a picture who is still using old Hangouts, they may be given a Google Drive link. It’s an annoying issue that should flush itself out if we all get onto Chat.
Not seeing access in the app? You could look to the web client for access. Google Chat used to be hosted at chat.google.com, but for the past week or so it has redirected to a Gmail-based client here. Give that link a look to see if you’ve been given access there.
For those trying out Google Chat, what do you think?