Why we're not dropping Slack for Google Hangouts Chat...yet.

Written by Mike Street on 15th March 2018


At the beginning of this month, Google announced they were rolling out Hangouts Chat to all users of Google Suite over a week or so. Our suite was finally updated with this “Slack killer” so we were able to try it out and see if we would be dropping Slack for this particular competitor. We are well aware that there are a whole plethora of inter-office communicators available, however, there were several features of Hangouts Chat that appealed to us, notably the Google integration

Hangouts Chat is not to be confused with Google Hangouts. Although they share a similar name (and oddly they do cross over - more on that later) they are not the same thing.

Why would we switch?

Slack has everything we need and has managed to fulfil those needs since November 2014. The only bug-bear we have with the free tier of the messaging service, is the restriction on the message history. Those who use Slack will know that on the free tier you only get 10,000 messages before your history gets truncated. This may seem like a lot to begin with, but when you add several integrations and automated updates, that message limit soon gets eaten up. Unfortunately, more than £60 a month on just a chat application to view the full history is not a justifiable expense.

That is where Google Hangouts Chat comes in, as we are paying for Google Suite, it makes sense to utilise all of their offerings including the unlimited message history that comes with it.

So a handful of us in the office tried Google Hangouts Chat out for a week and, as the title suggests, we won’t be switching just yet. But why not?


Before I get into the problems with Google Hangout Chat, let me cover the niceties and benefits of switching to this new platform:

  • Unlimited messages - as mentioned above, the unlimited message limit is a huge bonus
  • One less account to manage - we already use Active Collab, Google Suite, Trello, Gitlab etc., so to have one less service to sign into, or add people to when they join, the better
  • Google Drive integration - the Google Drive integration is really simple, allowing you to browse and share files without leaving the app
  • History mode - Google Hangouts Chat allows you to disable history mode, which will delete messages after 24 hours of them being sent - handy if you’re planning a surprise for a colleague....
  • Webhooks - As with Slack, Google Hangouts Chat allows you to use webhooks to send data to channels without requiring an account, allowing you to aggregate your data in one place
  • Threads in rooms (channels) - This is quite a nice feature in that when you post a message in a room, it creates a mini-thread. This allows you to contain conversations and keep them on topic. It can lead to confusion of not knowing where to look, but in time this could be really helpful. It is also implemented a lot better than Slack, as they hide their threads behind a small link which can easily be missed


So with all those great reasons to switch, why wouldn’t we? I’ve listed the reasons we’re not moving across below - there are a few minor niggles which we could get over if it wasn’t for the two last major flaws. If these get resolved, then maybe Google can tempt us over!

  • Webhooks are per room  - despite having webhooks, they seem to be specific per conversation and room. Where in Slack you create a webhook and define a channel, this can be overwritten when posting data. This can’t seem to be done in Google Hangouts Chat, and thus, a new webhook URL would need to be generated whenever you need to post to a new location
  • No giphy where there is no @giphy - In Slack, the giphy integration (allowing you to send Gifs to each other easily) is a slash command, in Google Hangouts Chat, it’s a user. This means if you are in a conversation where the @Giphy bot is not, you cannot send each other humorous gifs. Especially annoying with private messaging
  • Google emojis look terrible - Slack allows you to choose the emoji style you want and allows you to add custom emojis. With Google Hangouts Chat you are stuck with a limited selection of unappealing faces
  • Confusingly integrated with Hangouts - Gmail has had hangouts integrated for a while - although no-one I know uses it. When you start a private conversation in Google Hangouts Chat, you can continue it when logged into Gmail. Rooms, however, are not accessible - the same goes for if you accidentally go to normal Hangouts instead of Hangouts Chat when trying to login
  • An app is required - It seems you have to download the app to use it, despite the app just being a wrapper for a web page. Trying to locate this web page is extremely difficult and makes using Hangout Chat less appealing As noted in the comments below, it can now be found at https://chat.google.com
  • Delayed notifications - Some notifications seem to wait a while to let you know you’ve got a message - especially if you already have the chat window selected, it seems to get confused as to what you’ve actually read
  • Can’t join existing rooms - This is the biggest issue; you can’t seem to join existing rooms unless you’ve been invited. Slack allows you to browse, preview and join public channels, whereas Google Hangouts Chat gives you no indications that other channels exist. On the first day of trialling Google Hangouts Chat, we ended up with 3 “General” channels, as each of the trial users didn’t realise another one had been made

Because of these reasons, especially the last two,  we won’t be using Google Hangouts Chat for our internal messaging. Have you thought about using the platform? Have you made the switch? Let us know in the comments below what you think!

This article was posted in Musings by Mike Street

  • Mike Street

    Mike Street

    Mike is our front-end developer who spends his days buried in CSS and Gulp. His evenings and weekends are spent tinkering with electronics and riding bikes. mikestreety.co.uk


Nice writeup! Its nice to hear about real world friction. The webhooks issue in particular is kinda surprising to me so I'm glad I saw this.

Chad19/03/2018 20:49


As far as the "An app is required" goes, chat is now available at rather straightforward address: https://chat.google.com

Vincent20/03/2018 08:05

Glad you enjoyed it Chad and thanks for the tip Vincent, I've updated the article!

Mike Street20/03/2018 16:51

You wrote "despite having webhooks, they seem to be specific per conversation and room. " In my experience the webhook is for the room, and every webhook-delivered message seems to start a brand new conversation in the room. I dislike this because it is immensely cluttering, you cannot archive or delete old conversations, and it makes it hard to find the "real" conversation everyone was having.

Is this not what you experienced?

Ross Presser18/04/2018 16:20

Hey Ross,

That is exactly what I meant and experienced the same pains. When I said conversation, I was actually referring to private conversations with someone in the team.


Mike Street20/04/2018 15:50

Another major disadvantage is the lack of an import tool to import past data from Slack, Hipchat or any other chat app.

CB02/08/2018 01:56

Good summary,

We have made the move even though there are the negatives you have mentioned above. Main reason is cost and maintenance. We use G-Suite already so this is free, users are already set up on it and you get all the paid features from slack i.e. unlimited amount of content and screenshare through hangout.

Other things that annoy me
- when I search in gmail, conversations come up. Would like easier ways just to filter them out rather than having to put tags in my searches
- the notifications come up in gmail side component. Probably a way I can turn it off but havent looked.

The team miss Slack but Chat does the job and is improving every week. As long as they fill the gaps above over the next 3-6 months, we will stick it out.

Moysie06/08/2018 02:07

The lack of public rooms is my main complaint about Google Chat. However, I just read this in the G Suite Learning Center (https://gsuite.google.com/learning-center/products/chat/switch-from-slack/#!/): "Invite a Google group with everyone in your company, such as everyone@abc.com to create a public room."

I haven't tried it yet, but it seems that if you have a Google Group containing everyone in your domain and invite it to a room it would do the trick. Also note that you can disable the email notification when you invite a group, which is good when inviting everyone in your domain. Also, if your domain has more than 100 people the notification is disabled by default.

Gustavo Chaves19/08/2018 16:38

You guys missed the only REAL disadvantage that should actually be a dealbreaker, which is not being able to chat with people outside of your organization. I can invite guests to Slack, which you can't do in Google Chat. Complaining about gifs and emojis is kind of ridiculous as a reason not to switch.

As for Google Chat not sending notifications right away when the chat is already open, that's intentional. Most people don't want to get flooded with notifications for a chat they're already actively participating in. If you don't respond after a minute, Google figures you're not actually looking at the chat and sends you a notification.

Ben19/09/2018 19:33

Thanks for the feedback Ben, the reason we didn't talk about guests is that is a paid-only featured in Slack, which we don't have.

With regards to the notifications, I think this should be a user preference. We used hangouts for a while and this regularly popped up as a criticism.

Mike Street26/09/2018 14:16

Regarding the guests issue : in Slack people can join with any email, for example a private google or hotmail account, a live example is one building holding two companies (like us) who closely work together, we have a one slack team, this is not possible with Google Chat as each company has a separate google account actually one does not have a google at all.

Imme12/11/2018 22:29

We tried slack and switched to Hangouts Chat for a while. We also have a g-suite license. The lack of communication on new features, the lack of basic things like guest access and pinning posts/files has forced us to look elsewhere. Microsoft Teams blow both Slack and Hangouts Chat out of the water. We switched a couple weeks ago and I didn't have to convince anyone that Teams was better. The concept of Teams with nested Channels and tabbed resources is amazing. The integrations with third party software is also far superior to hangouts or slack. I think google swung for the fences on this one ,but ended up punting and didn't make it even halfway to first base. I don't know what is going on over at google but if they don't start looking at why Microsoft is suddenly the better innovator they are in big trouble.

Dan C.20/12/2018 15:28

Good write up. I don't care about giffs and emojis, but like you, we are not ready to move to Google Chat yet.

As an end user with fairly basic needs, I was at first excited to have Google Chat for my team. Finally, I can share documents and images in chat and set up Meet meeting within chat. It is also nice to organize discussions by “Room” and “conversation.” I do not need all the 3rd-party integrations and many of the advanced features of Slack, so I thought I would be happy with Google Chat. But there are two really annoying oversights that make Google Chat far less useful than Slack and for now I'll be ignoring Google Chat and going back to Slack until the Google Chat product matures to the point of being useful.

First, if you don’t have Google Chat open, you don’t get alerts. I downloaded the Windows app for Google Chat, but there is no way to close the window and let it run the background. With Slack, it just automatically opened in the background, running in the Windows task tray whenever I started my computer. I never had to think about it or worry about missing messages. Because of this many team members are going to forget to proactively open chat. Team members lose faith that their messages will be seen in a timely fashion and just stop using the application.

Second, you can only be logged into one chat account at a time in the app. The Windows app only allows you to log into one account. Slack allows you to log into multiple accounts at the same time. If you have partners or clients that would like you to use their own account, you have sign out of one and sign into the other, meaning at any given time, you are only going to get messages from one of your accounts. In Chrome, you can log into multiple Gmail accounts in multiple windows, and then open Chat in a tab in each of those windows. But that is annoying enough to remember to do and annoying to toggle windows and tabs to check chats that people just stop using Chat.

This is especially annoying on a phone as you can’t use the multiple Chrome window kludge. This is a shame because the phone app can help address issue 1 in that it will give you a notification if you get a message, even if the app is closed. But you can only be logged into one account at a time. So you can only be alerted to new messages from a single Google Account.

Google Chats has made us less productive and has hindered collaboration. It isn’t ready for prime time yet.

paul easton01/02/2019 21:40

I think everyone above and the article have covered most of the cons of Google Chat. I'll add that the design is terrible. White on white on white is dated. Chat boxes on top of each other: dated. There's no way to even see if my last IM has been read! I mean what is happening in Google right now with this design?!

Dan D26/02/2019 15:54

Slack is better than Google hangouts in team collaboration. It is widely used by businesses globally in addition to other online collaboration tools like Zoom, R-HUB web video conferencing servers, Zoom, Gotomeeting etc.

Adelar Kranz10/09/2020 10:39

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