Google Hangouts: Online vs Connected

Google New Hangouts

Google recently launched it’s great new feature as a standalone app: Hangouts

With everything new in our life, there are great chances of confusion and adapting. The same goes with Hangouts. I have seen many complaints about not seeing the user status – is the person online or is he offline?

Now this question get’s me thinking: What am I in real life? Online or Offline? What does it mean?

Here is a small personal take on why I love Hangouts. It is not a post about what is missing like Google Voice or AOL/AIM contacts and I’m sure not everyone likes the post at all but… here we go


Online, Offline & Invisible

It seems we can’t get rid of this status indications but why? In my eyes those status indications are completely useless with the release of Hangouts.

What does being online on a messenger mean?
It indicates the other person that I’m free to chat.

What does being offline on a messenger mean?
I’m not able to chat with you because I’m not here.

If you see a status “away” does it mean I’m not responding? What about being “busy” is that different?

To be honest, if I don’t have the time to chat with you, why should I leave my application open? Just to show you I’m in a super important meeting and you can’t reach me? That makes no sense to me.

Seeing a status as “online” does not give you any guarantee that I will actually respond to you.

Being online is forcing you to take action, it set’s you under pressure. If someone writes you because you have a green icon, it is commonly expected that you reply to it. Oh, you forgot to set a different status? Explain this to the other person.

What about invisible? How does that make sense?

I’m online but will only write to friends I select. They can’t see me and won’t write me because they think I won’t get the message.

Do we need an indication like this?

Again, I don’t think so. Do you have a friend in your contact list that is all the time “busy or away”? I guess at least one. Now, if you follow those indications, it means you could never reach that person. Does it make sense for the person to use a messenger at all?

Green (online) and Red (away/busy) are stop and go signals. Depending on your importance to your friends you could find yourself spammed with 20 new messages as soon as you go green since they have waited the whole day for you. Now you have to walk through each single message – they expect a quick reply.

Wouldn’t it be better if those 20 messages would have been delivered during the day and not all at once?

Online vs Connected

Let’s get rid of being online – In the time where smartphones are taking over the digital life we are nearly always online, there is no need to indicate that you can reach me via any application.

Let’s try to use the term “connected” instead of online. If I use my smartphone, I’m connected to the digital world and the same goes with my computer, tablet or any other device. I’m connected and you can reach out to me.

Now with Hangouts it doesn’t matter if you are online or offline. If I’m writing you a message, it will get delivered across all devices you have and I can be sure that you received the message. It is about you to get back to me whenever you feel comfortable (would mean online). If you don’t have the time, you’ll get back to me later (busy/away). It is as simple as that.

We really don’t need an indication that tells our friends we are listening to them. We do, even if we are “away/busy/invisible”, it’s about the conversation you have with me.

This is where Hangout is great, it doesn’t care about your status, it cares about getting your conversation delivered!

Feels like traditional SMS? Well, you can’t do video chats via a SMS or send group messages. However, from what we have heard these days is that Google is already working on new features and SMS integration.

I see that some need to get used of this but chatting/messaging and conversations are just reaching a new different level.

  • cvrcac

    How ca I sign out from Google Hangouts on my android mobile , there is not such a possibility!!!!why????

  • cvrcac

    OK , I found it ! THANKS

    How to
    logout from Google Hangouts

    Tap the context (alt menu)
    button and then tap on settings.

    You will then see the list
    of account/s, select the one that you want to sign out.

    You will then get a page
    scroll down till the end and there you will find the sign out option.

    • Nick Rock

      Hi cvrcac

      I’m glad you managed it! Sorry for my late response. If you ever need more assistance with Hangouts, I highly recommend to take a look at the official Hangouts forum here:!forum/hangouts

  • Ned

    Thanks for your blog post, but I respectfully (and strongly) disagree.

    The ability to pre-indicate one’s availability is an essential and valuable part of any messaging infrastructure. Otherwise, that friend who types their message to you has to wait to see if you are going to respond in realtime. The ability to set an “away” or “busy” status lets them know that, while they should indeed go ahead and send their message just as you suggested, they should not expect a prompt response.

    I just got a new laptop and am dismayed to see that Google Hangouts doesn’t offer any way for me to set my status. That’s not less valuable in the world of 24/7 connectivity – it’s MORE valuable.

    I really liked Google Talk, but this is a minimum feature requirement for me. I’ll be forced to switch to another IM network if this isn’t fixed.

    • Nick Rock

      Hi @Ned
      Why do you need to wait and see if I’m responding to your message? Since, as we both agree, we are connected 24/7, I am online and I will get back to you. Other status indications are just a stopper for you.
      Most of us have at least one member that is permanently “busy”, “away” or even “invisible”. How should you decide when to contact that person? A conversation is for me personal not tied to any indication.
      But Hangouts does help you since it is showing you who is online right at the very moment. You see them indicated by a green bubble or thin line below their Avatar.
      Thank you for your thoughtful and respectful reply!

      • Shri

        IT is AtBSOLUTELY essential – because it is a messaging app. Otherwise why is Google even bothered to call it instant messaging / interactive app? Why not just use SMS/MMS. Google “downgraded” to a DUMB and STUPID hangouts app. Google talk was a beautiful and fantastic app that did not need downgraded

  • tom

    I also disagree.. In truely life I can see if my coworkers ‘status’. If they are deep in thought in with headphones on or having a heated conversation with someone, I can figure out they probably don’t want to talk about last nights game, but online I can’t tell this and its a total waste of both our times for me to send them a message. However if the building was burning down in real life or metaphorically online, then they still want to be available to receive such a message.

    However I agree the ‘DnD’ status is completely redundant, get offline and if your the sort of person who likes to sneek around invisible half the time, I will probably defriend you fairly quick.

  • wrxmarcus

    I like the thought, but…
    Then why have the ability to email at all? A “hangout” implies you are around to hang out. Email implies you’ll read it when you can. I’m not available to Hang Out right now. Sorry. If I treat HangOuts like email, they are a duplication needs.

  • Shri

    what a pathetic article. Status indicators are absolutely essential for a messaging (IM) app. Otherwise what is even a need for this app? I might just use SMS and MMS

    • Nick Rock

      Thanks for the “pathetic” part. I’m sorry if the article wasn’t the one you were looking for. However, I appreciate your comment and I’m sure Google is making Hangouts step by step even more better. Hopefully it will fit your need at some point.
      The article is based on my needs and of feedback from some friends of mine. Everyone has a different taste – which is actually pretty good. As for me, or “some” of my friends, we don’t really need another signal. SMS and MMS is completely different – in my view.

      • Shri

        it is a messaging app. Online/away status indicators are absolutely essential for its functioning. it is not an SMS or MMS message or email message

  • 7alexaltorfer

    This is absolutely ridiculous! When at work I need my status set to “Busy” (color RED), to dissuade undesired interruptions. I may still chat with a few people I need to communicate with, even while my status remains set to ‘Busy’ (RED). This setting is available in Google Talk and its absence in Hangouts is inexcusable!