Google is now warning users that depend on the notification button found on nearly all of its sites that the button will be disappearing on March 7. The recently reported message appears in the drop-down shade hidden behind the button, relaying that fact along with a link to the feature’s support page. After the impending date, users will need to depend on the page or service-specific notifications instead.
More directly, users will need to navigate to the settings page for Hangouts Chat or Google Photos, in either the app or web version, to choose what notifications they want to receive. Those simply won’t be provided browser-wide for Google account holders who are signed in after March 7. G Suite users still accessing Google+ will need to follow a similar process.
The death of G+, Hangouts, and notifications
The timing of Google’s decision to bring its notification widget to an end is most likely linked to the imminent death of two associated products. Google+ and Hangouts are each currently on the way out, so the feature would really only continue working as advertised for Google Photos.
Google+ will cease to function for the average user as of April 2, just 26 days after the notifications button is removed. Hangouts will have a longer death and users will be transitioned to a new app, with the close-out expected to start in October. The latter app could continue working in some capacity until 2020, according to some reports but that hasn’t been confirmed just yet.
Interestingly, although the end of Google’s social network is approaching, the app’s usage increased in January. That’s in spite of the massive breach the service’s APIs suffered, reported last year — more than a year after the vulnerability was discovered. Google+ suffered a second vulnerability in November that ultimately pushed its shutdown forward.
Hangouts is a more complicated shutdown since it wasn’t necessarily subject to the same low user-count as Google+ or the same bugs. It is effectively still in use by general consumers but being relegated to G Suite users only. In fact, both Google+ and Hangouts will remain available to G Suite users following the shutdown, keeping the services live for business and enterprise customers. Business users will need to transition to Hangouts Chat and Meet from the “classic” version by some point in 2020.
For the general user base, the app initially intended to replace Hangouts — namely, Allo — is being sunsetted as well.
It’s a mess anyway
Although it makes sense to eliminate a notification feature that only serves a single application that isn’t a messaging application, it is still an indicator of how big of a mess Google’s messaging platform has become.
The search giant has continuously launched and removed applications serving that purpose, in addition to working toward better SMS messaging via new RCS standards that will help text messages function more similarly to a traditional chat app. Google has also worked to ensure wider cross-compatibility between text messaging and its Chrome browser. That includes efforts to allow text messaging between a smartphone and its Chrome operating system.
None of the company’s efforts automatically makes things easier for consumers who just want a chat service they can rely on.
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