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Hangouts Replacement

Google is currently in the process of killing Hangouts. Last year Hangouts was quite a nice IM system with integrated video chat and voice calling. Now they have decided to kill it and replace it with “Google Chat” and “Google Meet” both of which are integrated with the Gmail app on Android. To start getting people off the old platform they have disabled video and audio chats with more than 2 people in Hangouts. To do a video call you have to use Meet which has a worse user interface and isn’t integrated with text chat, so if in a text discussion someone says “let’s have a video call” you have to open a new app. Meet also doesn’t appear to have a facility to notify group members that someone has joined a group call so it’s required that Chat (or something else) is used to tell people they can join Meet.

Many of my relatives use Hangouts because they are forced to have it installed on their Android phones and because it worked quite well. Now it doesn’t work well and will soon be going away. So another option is needed.

I’m considering Matrix as a replacement. Matrix has a good feature set and is being worked on a lot. The video conferencing is through a connection to a Jitsi server and is well integrated giving functionality more like Hangouts than Chat/Meet.

For the LUV Matrix server the URL https://luv.asn.au/.well-known/matrix/client has the following contents:

{
  "m.homeserver": {
    "base_url": "https://luv.asn.au"
  }
  "jitsi": {
    "preferredDomain": "jitsi.perthchat.org"
  }
  "im.vector.riot.jitsi": {
    "preferredDomain": "jitsi.perthchat.org"
  }
}

This specifies the Jitsi server to be used for chats started from that Matrix server. The PerthChat.org people seem to be leading the way for self hosted Matrix in Australia. Note that other people shouldn’t link to their Jitsi server without discussing it with them first. I only included real data because it’s published on the web so there’s no point in keeping it secret.

The Flounder free software users’ group [1] uses Matrix a lot. We will probably discuss Matrix at the next meeting on Saturday.

There is also Element Call [2] which is apparently more integrated with Matrix (and also newer and possibly buggier). Jitsi works and we can change to a different service easily enough at a later time.

3 comments to Hangouts Replacement

  • I really believe Matrix is the future. It has so many things going for it and the ecosystem seems to move at great speed. Unfortunately audio/video hasn’t seen much work until lately.

    Jitsi is indeed currently they best way, but as you say, element call is a showcase what is coming. 1-on-1 doesn’t necessarily use jitsi (it can be forced). Element call doesn’t use jitsi, but does a full mesh of webrtc streams, so it can use quite a bit of bandwidth. But they’re working on improving that.

    I’ll be happy to discuss this more with you over matrix if you like, but I guess you know the people running perthchat as well. @ptman:kapsi.fi

  • anc

    >I’m considering Matrix as a replacement.
    Why not XMPP? Decentralized, standardized, open. Like email but for IM.

    Gajim, Blabber, Dino, Conversations.

  • Paul: yes it seems to be making good progress.

    anc: I use Jabber, but it seems to be mostly ignored nowadays and things like multi-party chat didn’t seem to be well supported last time I used it seriously (years ago).

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