Google kills the Messenger in latest Google+ Android update

Google Hangouts works just fine as a replacement to Messenger, the company said

Google is shutting down its Messenger group chatting service as part of an update to its Google+ app for Android-based devices, the company recently announced. Google will also be ditching the service on iOS devices.

Google Hangouts, which performs similar messaging and video calling functions, will act as a replacement for Messenger, said Google software engineer Virgil Dobjanschi, in a Wednesday blog post. Google Messenger was a service for mobile devices designed for group conversations with text, photos and face-to-face video chat.

Because Hangouts provides messaging and video calls across Android, iOS and the Web, "we're moving Messenger from the Google+ mobile apps, first on Android, then on iOS," Dobjanschi said.

Users will be able to download all of their Messenger conversations, including text and photos, from Google's Takeout data export service later on Wednesday, Dobjanschi said.

The offer of a transition to Hangouts, however, does not guarantee that users will stay, because the product occupies an increasingly crowded market of other group chat and messaging services. Competitors include Facebook's Messenger service, WhatsApp, Rounds, and Imo messenger.

Google also faces pressure to distinguish its Google+ social network from large rivals like Twitter and Facebook. To make Google+ more attractive to users, the company announced more than 40 new features at its annual I/O conference for developers in May. Some of those enhancements included an improved interface and ongoing chat and photo improvements.

Google+ has hundreds of millions of users, senior vice president Vic Gundotra said at the I/O conference, but the company did not specify beyond that. Facebook has more than 1 billion monthly active users, and Twitter has just over 200 million.

Google has recently shut down some other services in the process of updating its apps. Last month the company scrapped its Latitude and check-ins products as part of an update to its Maps app. Google Latitude provided a way for people to see the approximate locations of friends and others who have shared that information.

Several new features are coming to the Google+ Android app that will be rolling out over the next few days, the company said on Wednesday.

While some of the location-sharing features might now be absent from Google Maps, there are additional tools in this area within the Google+ Android app. With the new version of the app, location sharing includes more controls, so people can share their pinpoint or city-level location with others, and on a circle-by-circle basis, if they want, Google said. In other words, users can share their pinpoint location with family, and their city-level location with co-workers, according to the company.

The update also lets Google+ for Android interact more with Google's Drive cloud storage service. If users are sharing photos or videos in Google Drive, they now have the option to view and share them from Google+ on Android and on the Web, Google said. Google's photo auto-enhancement feature, which was first rolled out at the I/O conference, will be applied here as well.

A pull-to-refresh feature, which commonly lets people see the latest content within an app by pulling down on the screen, is on the way too for the app, Google said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

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