Chat and classic Hangouts interoperability

This article is intended for Google Workspace administrators. If you’re a user who wants to learn how Google Chat and classic Hangouts work together, visit Use Chat and classic Hangouts together

If your organization has both Google Chat and classic Hangouts, everyone in your organization can now chat with each other across services. For example, one person might see and type messages in Chat, while their colleague continues to use classic Hangouts to see the same messages. This feature is slowly rolling out starting in December 2020. 

In most ways, this process is transparent; people simply use Chat or classic Hangouts. However, there are some exceptions and important considerations for administrators.

New group chats

Starting in December 2020, newly-created group chats have flexible memberships. To fully understand how Chat and classic Hangouts work together, it’s important to distinguish between legacy group chats and new group chats in Chat:

  • New group chats--starting in December, 2020, members can be added or removed from group chats. If you leave a group chat, you can rejoin again later. To recognize a new group chat, check for the option to Leave in the chat menu.
  • Legacy group chats--After the group chat has been created, the membership list is final. You can’t leave these group chats.

How Chat and classic Hangouts work together

Users who have classic Hangouts enabled can create conversations in Hangouts that also appear in Chat. Conversely, users who have Chat enabled can create conversations (1:1s, new group chats, and unthreaded spaces) in Chat that also appear in classic Hangouts. Here’s how conversations are mapped:

Classic Hangouts Google Chat
1:1 direct message 1:1 direct message
Group conversation with no name New group chat
Group conversation with name Unthreaded space

Exceptions

  • Chat legacy group chats and threaded spaces don’t appear in classic Hangouts.
  • 1:1s interoperate only if both people have classic Hangouts enabled. 
  • Inactive 1:1 classic Hangouts conversations prior to November 2017 do not yet appear in Chat.  
  • Classic Hangouts group conversations with abusive users don’t appear in Chat.
  • Classic Hangouts group conversations don’t appear in Chat if the organization that owns the classic conversation can’t be identified. For example, this might happen if people in the conversation are from different organizations and the Google Account of the person who created the conversation was deleted.
  • New group chats and unthreaded spaces in Chat appear in classic Hangouts only if they’re owned by an organization with classic Hangouts enabled. (Ownership is determined by the top-level organizational unit of the person who created the group chat or unthreaded space, even if child organizational unit settings are different.)  
    • People in external organizations without classic Hangouts can join the group chat or unthreaded space, and their messages are stored in both Chat and classic Hangouts. 
    • When an organization disables classic Hangouts, it can irreversibly break interoperability for its existing group chats and unthreaded spaces, even if classic Hangouts is re-enabled. As soon as there’s any activity in the group chat or space, the interoperation with classic Hangouts permanently stops. If there’s no activity before classic Hangouts is re-enabled, the interoperation is restored.

Best practice: If you want to prevent users who don’t have classic Hangouts from joining group conversations that do interoperate with classic Hangouts, you should turn off external chat for those users.

Group conversation data access

In classic Hangouts, a group conversation is co-owned by all participants. In Chat, a new group chat or unthreaded space is owned by the creator’s top-level organization. The ownership rules of a synchronized conversation will be different on classic Hangouts and Chat. Ownership of the group conversation dictates what happens when data is exported via Vault or the Data Export tool.

  • You can search and export data of all group conversations your users participated in via these tools for classic Hangouts or Gmail.
  • You can search and export data of new group chats and unthreaded spaces you own via these tools for Chat. 

Best practice: If you use Vault or the Data Export tool to access classic Hangouts data, we recommend that you continue searching or exporting classic Hangouts data using these tools. Although classic Hangouts messages are synchronized to Chat, you will lose the exportability of group conversations that you don't own on Chat.  

Guest access of group chats

External guests are not allowed in group chats created on Chat. However, users who have classic Hangouts enabled can create unnamed group conversations with external guests in Hangouts if you allow external chats. The Hangouts group conversations can then show up in Chat as a new group chat with external guests.

Google data regions

Data region policies aren’t supported by classic Hangouts. Therefore, when Chat conversations are mirrored in classic Hangouts, the copy in classic Hangouts won’t adhere to the data region settings.

Best practice: If you want your users’ chat data to be geographically associated with their location, we recommend that you turn the classic Hangouts setting off for your top-level organizational unit.

Vault retention and eDiscovery

Vault handles interoperating group chats differently:

  • Retention—To retain group conversations in (or synced to) classic Hangouts, set a custom retention rule for an organizational unit. This rule doesn’t apply to new group chats in Chat. To retain group chats in Chat, set a custom retention rule for all Chat spaces. This rule doesn’t apply to 1:1 direct messages, but does cover all interoperating group chats. Learn more
  • Holds—Group chats in classic Hangouts and Chat are included by default in a Chat hold. Learn more
  • Search and export—A Gmail search returns 1:1 direct messages in Hangouts, group conversations in Hangouts, and interoperating group chats from Chat. To get most interoperating group chats in a Chat search, the search must include Chat spaces. Learn more about Gmail search and Chat search

Deleting group conversations

If a group conversation or unthreaded space is deleted in Chat, the mirrored conversation is also deleted from classic Hangouts.

New group conversations and unthreaded spaces are automatically deleted in these situations:

  • If the group conversation or space was created by a Workspace user: The conversation or space is deleted when the creator’s organization unsubscribes from Google Workspace. 
  • If the group conversation or space was created by a consumer: The conversation or space is flagged for deletion in 5 days when there are no more consumer participants, even if there are still Workspace participants. The Workspace participants receive email notice of the pending deletion.

If the Chat conversation or space is saved from deletion, it’s only recovered on Chat and no longer interoperates with classic Hangouts. This happens if the organization re-subscribes to Workspace (1st situation above), or a consumer joins (2nd situation), before the conversation or space is permanently deleted.

Classic Hangouts history sync

Almost all messages previously posted from classic Hangouts are now available in Chat. There are a few exceptions, such as inactive 1:1 messages prior to November 2017. To learn more, refer to the exceptions in the "How Chat and classic Hangouts work together" section above.

Best practice: If you use Vault or the Data Export tool to access classic Hangouts data, we recommend that you continue to do so. Classic Hangouts messages that were previously deleted by your users but are only accessible to you won’t be synchronized to Chat. However, those messages will continue to be accessible to you in Vault through Gmail as long as you retain the Gmail service.

Third-party archiving

Classic Hangouts messages are archived in the Gmail Chat Archive, which can be configured for third-party archiving for Gmail. Messages posted in classic Hangouts that interoperate with Chat are additionally exported if you enable third-party Chat archiving.

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