Chris Kranky

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Google Hangouts API we wave good-bye

tl;dr - Google kills the API to Hangouts and a tree fell in the woods, this means nothing.

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

He’s dead, Jim. Last week Google announced that they would deprecate the Hangouts API. Hangouts is certainly one of the top 10 WebRTC apps in usage so the question quickly arises, “What does this mean?”

API’s are great if they’re part of an ecosystem which supports your primary mission. In this case, Hangouts was/is an integral part of Google Apps, the customer of Google Apps are businesses and enterprises. Thus Hangouts needs to support Google Apps. This rolls down to the API as well.

The Hangouts API didn’t attract the right audience, though! It attracted a silly set of consumer apps or companies attempting to ‘freeload’ their paid app on to Hangouts. In short, killing the API is a no-brainer.

If you hear Klaxon horns in the background, it has to be the broader Google Apps group manning the battle stations. Microsoft Office 365 is taking share from Google Apps. Microsoft Office 365 has grown from 12.4 million users at 3Q2015 to 22.2 million in 3Q2016 that’s a 79% annual increase.

Now some of that increase is simply the 400 million Outlook/Office users converting over to the cloud. 22 million also sounds like a large number until you realize there are 400 million computers running Windows 10. However, in a dark alley last month a friend at an file sharing company dropped that their own stats are showing a measurable shift of existing users from Google Apps to Microsoft Office. Clearly the trend isn’t good.

Microsoft doesn’t have a Hangouts equivalent and in fact even today, Skype on the web still wants to install a plug-in and doesn’t use WebRTC fully and it’s real match against Hangouts. Internet Explorer doesn’t support WebRTC and Edge only sort of. So Microsoft has a platform problem to solve. Google, however, has an application problem. The race is and has been on.

Offering an API on to a collaboration platform has been tried before. Adobe Connect had a deep ecosystem of companies building business solutions using their robust API. It worked well for Learning Management Systems and Educational platforms of all types. Adobe refers to Connect as a “legacy” product now, which means it obviously wasn’t that successful.

Everyone wants an API, but keeping one alive only makes sense if it’s furthering your own business. In the case of Hangouts, it didn’t. More interesting will be how Google attempts to stem the outgoing tide from Apps to Microsoft Office 365.