Starting in June, Google is saying good-bye to one of its most beloved products, Gchat. Officially, the chat app’s name was Google Talk; Gchat was just what hip, personal-computer owners started calling it back in the day, but the name has persisted. While the functionality of Gchat isn’t really going away — users will be rolled over to Hangouts, a Google chat platform that has been up and running for four years at this point and does effectively the same thing — the name and user interface will be no more.
Gchat’s run as the king of adult instant-messaging started back in 2005. For those of us just getting into the web around then, it was a perfect platform: Your tech-inept parents weren’t on it yet. It was cleaner and easier to use than AIM. And there was the added bonus that because it was new — Gmail launched in 2004, a year prior to Gchat — you might actually be able to snag a variation on your name, if not your given name exactly. Realistically, you probably went with something much cooler and more true to your inner spirit, like “flypegasusfly,” “crewgirl16,” or “mormonboy12804.” (I wish I could say I made any of those up.)
Sure, when the Google Hangouts switch happens in June, your online interactions aren’t really going to change that much. But the name will die, and that’s something to grieve on this slow-for-tech-news Friday. To Gchat with somebody was to enter a secret sanctum, one with an off-the-record-mode-induced cone of silence, which erased messages after you sent them. Giving somebody your personal Gmail account to message was an offering of friendship, an invitation to gossip freely away from the potentially prying eyes of company-owned Slack channels and Campfire rooms. If somebody wanted to Gchat, you knew to expect some good dish about your boss, or your ex, or your boss’s ex.
In addition to Google Hangouts, Google still offers a handful of other communication apps, including Allo, Duo, and its Android messaging app. Still, none of those have quite the same ring as “take this to Gchat.”