Hanging up on Hangouts

Google Hangouts is the evolution of Google's instant messenger, which has gone through many iterations: we've seen it as Google Talk, Google+ Huddle/Messenger, Babel, and Hangouts video chat. Unlike Google Talk, it doesn't support XMPP, which is a nice open standard protocol meaning that lots of [free][1] and [open][2] clients exist - in fact, when Hangouts engulfed Talk back in 2013, Google killed off support for XMPP federations, which meant that you explicitly needed a Google account to use the service. It also meant that group conversations were handled by the new proprietary Hangouts protocol, so you could still kind-of use Hangouts in third party clients (i.e. only for one-to-one conversations).

Now, Google is planning on ending all XMPP support by the end of the week (16/02/2015).

No more third party clients.

Enter Hangups, a third party reverse-engineering of the proprietary Hangouts protocol written in Python. It's still early days, but Hangups lets you use Google Hangouts straight from the terminal with its reference client (there's a Qt client too).

Hangups terminal client

At the moment, things like initiating new conversations aren't finished yet, but it's trivial to set up an account, even if you have two-factor authentication turned on. There's even a IRC gateway that operates in a BitlBee-eqsue fashion.

Hopefully, this project will pick up the traction that it deserves and continue to see healthy development, as Google Hangouts continues to proliferate into ubiquity onto every platform. It's quite surprising to see why Google themselves haven't released an API for this already, but "don't be evil" doesn't seem to be how Google works these days.

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