Getting Started With Google Chat

For several years, classic Google Hangouts had been a part of Google at U-M and integrated with Google Mail. Google Chat is an updated, team-based experience that has replaced classic Hangouts at U-M, including within Gmail.

Google Chat facilitates both direct messaging and team-based collaboration within U-M Google. Faster and more interactive than email, Google Chat lets any U-M Google user chat with individuals, send group messages, and engage in team-based collaboration. Many devices and systems, including the web, desktop clients, and mobile devices, can use Google Chat.

Note: Google Chat is a Google Workspace for Education core service. It is free, covered under U-M's agreement with Google, and can be used for certain kinds of sensitive data.

Common Terminology

There are many terms Google uses to distinguish between classic Hangouts and Chat. The following is a list of these terms and to which service they apply.

  • One-to-one (1:1) direct messages: Messages between two people in classic Hangouts or Chat.
  • Group conversations: Messages with more than two people. Also known as "new group chats" in Google Chat. "Legacy group chats" were group conversations created before December 2020 in Chat.
  • Spaces: Previously called "rooms," spaces are a central place where people can share files, assign tasks, and stay connected.


  • U-M Google and Google Chat are not HIPAA-compliant. If you are affiliated with Michigan Medicine, refer to the U-M HITS site for approved communications software.
  • While you can add external users to spaces and direct messages, you cannot include external users in group messages.
  • You cannot convert existing internal rooms in Chat to external spaces. Spaces must be created as external rooms.
  • You need to use a 64-bit version of your preferred web browser to download the desktop application.
  • Only one account can sign in at a time when using Google Chat via the desktop application.

Google Chat and classic Hangouts interoperability

  • Almost all message history from classic Hangouts is available in Chat. There are a few exceptions, such as inactive one-to-one messages prior to November 2017. 
  • Google Chat threaded spaces will not send messages to or appear in Hangouts for people outside of U-M who are still on classic Hangouts.
  • Group conversations created in classic Hangouts with people outside of U-M should appear in Chat as a new group chat with external guests.
  • Google Chat spaces can include people from outside the university. But, if they are using classic Hangouts, and it is a threaded space, they will not be able to see the message and will need to open Chat through
  • Hangouts users will not be able to see Chat threaded space messages until they access them through
  • All phone/voice calls in classic Hangouts are no longer available or supported by Google. (You currently cannot make (one-click) phone/voice calls in Google Chat.)

Note: In Google Meet, you can add someone via their phone number to the session, but this is not the same functionality as classic Hangouts phone/voice calls.

  • Google Meet is now the default videoconferencing option in Google Chat. Video calls made in classic Hangouts are converted to a Google Meet session, sending the Chat user a link to the meeting.

For additional information on interoperability, refer to Chat and classic Hangouts interoperability.

External Users

External users outside of U-M are allowed in U-M Google Chat. (Refer below to learn how to add external users in Chat.)

Note: You can add external users to unthreaded spaces, one-to-one direct messages, and group conversations/chats. However, new group chats and unthreaded spaces in Chat appear in classic Hangouts only if they’re owned by an organization with classic Hangouts enabled.

To use Google Chat with people outside the University of Michigan, they will need to have a Google account. These users will have an "External" badge in Chat, so you will always know whether you're sharing information with the right people.

Additionally, you will need to designate a space as "External" when you create it. You will not be able to change this setting after the space is created. This means you won't be able to add external users to any spaces that have already been created, as those will remain "internal." 

To designate a room as "External" when creating it, check the box next to "Allow people outside your organization to join."

Group Conversations vs. Spaces

Google Chat offers group conversations (for smaller, private conversations) and spaces (for larger, team-based work). Group conversations and spaces have different features and capabilities. For example, you can invite MCommunity groups to spaces, but you cannot invite MCommunity groups to group conversations. For more information and help to determine which option is best for your needs, refer to About spaces and group conversations.

Note: Spaces will soon be discoverable via search by anyone at U-M in Google Chat if desired. Until Google releases this feature in the coming months, only individuals who have been invited to a space will be able to search for and access that space.

Manage Spaces and Groups for Your Department, Organization, or School

By default, you can add people to a space one at a time. However, if you would like to add users in bulk, you can create an MCommunity Group and then invite that group to your space.

To invite a group to an existing space:

  1. Click the plus sign ("+") next to Spaces in the left sidebar or chat window.
  2. Enter the name of the desired space in the field provided and select it from the list.
  3. Click the space title and select Add people & bots from the drop-down menu.
  4. Enter the name of your MCommunity group in the "Enter name or email of person or group" field and select it from the list.
  5. Click Send.

Once invited, individual members of the MCommunity group can join your space. Google Chat will notify members that they have been invited to your space. If you'd like, you can also send an email notification when initially inviting the group.

​Important: You can use MCommunity groups to invite people into a space, but they are not synced with Google Chat. If you remove someone from the MCommunity group, you must manually remove them from the Chat space.


Bots are a unique way for users to connect to services integrated with Google Chat. You can talk to bots and command them to perform various tasks.

We have approved the following bots for use in U-M Google Chat:

The classic Hangouts bot will notify you of any missed classic Hangouts group messages.

You can use the Google Drive bot to get notifications in Google Chat about activity in Drive.

  • Meet (i.e., Google Meet)

You can use the Meet bot in Google Chat to schedule, modify, and cancel meetings, or to look up your schedule.

We are currently developing a process to request Google Chat bots, and we will provide more information to the university community soon. Until then, to propose other bots to be approved for use in U-M Google Chat, contact the ITS Service Center.

Additional Resources

To learn more about Google Chat, see:

Last Updated: 
Thursday, September 9, 2021