The important thing here is that they didn’t ruin Hangouts altogether.
I’m not even sure that Google—nor Android users, for that matter—realize what a good thing they have had in Hangouts. Though the days of proper XMPP support are long gone, there is still data portability via Google Takeout and, perhaps more importantly, clients for Android, iOS and desktop web browsers.
You could partly blame carrier SMS charges on the rise of WhatsApp, along with technical issues hindering content shared through MMS. Whatever the case, WhatsApp is now immensely popular, leading Google to chase after it with their in-house clone called Allo. In the same way, the company is now targeting a darling of start-up culture, Slack, with a complete overhaul of the Hangouts platform.
That platform will see two new apps, Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. Meet looks to be a more business-friendly version of Hangouts On Air, though I’m willing to bet that its biggest user demographic will continue to be podcasters. Chat will add a chatbot to the current Hangouts experience, and bring with it the ability (for example) to schedule calendar events from within the app. Unfortunately, as an enterprise product, Hangouts Chat will also offer additional functionality via paid features; put another way, the free version will be limited.
Like the Pixel phones and Pixel-exclusive features, this also seems very un-Googley to me, and perhaps its time to wean my friends and I off of Hangouts and on to something else. What do you use for chat?