Draw with your face? Conference call ping pong? Not any more. Google today quietly revealed that it will shut down the Hangouts API, preventing new apps from being built and shutting off existing apps on April 25th. There was no blog post about this, just an updated FAQ and email notification to developers active on the API, forwarded to us by one of these devs.
Some examples of experiences that could be built on the API include augmented reality selfie masks, polling and collaborative drawing, like the Scoot & Doodle app. But as Google pushes Duo as its consumer video chat app and relegates Hangouts to the enterprise, its dropping the flexibility to build these kinds of experiences.
The email explains that:
In order to streamline our efforts further, we will be retiring the Google+ Hangouts API that enables developers to build apps for the older version of Hangouts video calls. This API was originally intended to support social scenarios for consumer users as part of Google+, whereas Hangouts is now turning to focus on enterprise use cases.
We understand this will impact developers who have invested in our platform. We have carefully considered this change and believe that it allows us to give our users a more targeted Hangouts desktop video experience going forward.
According to the FAQ, the few exceptions that will still run are the ability to dial into a Hangout via DialPad and RingCentral, integrations with enterprise chat tools like Slack and Googles own Hangouts on Air tools like Toolbox, Control Room and Cameraman.
The Google Hangouts API is a casualty of Googles fragmented messaging app strategy and the neglect of Hangouts itself. It was one of the first full-featured video chat apps, and it pioneered the AR selfie mask space that Snapchat has now turned into a teenage phenomenon. But by launching multiple siloed messaging apps that dont talk to each other and forcing the Google+ social layer onto Hangouts, the service fell out of favor.
Now with the API shut down, its one-step closer to being just a video version of the traditional business call. That might be more streamline, but its far from inspiring users to take a second look at Hangouts.