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How to Navigate the Confounding ‘Invitation to Chat’ Feature in Google Hangouts

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech

Gchat was my Internet happy place. It was where the conversations are warm and familiar and there were no random Facebook friends from high school asking “how r u?” and ruining the mood. 

But when Google rolled out its new Hangouts version of chat, effectively replacing Gchat for most users, it complicated things. I reluctantly switched, but many of my dear Gchat acquaintances — in addition to many new ones — have not.

One result of this great switch is that adding a new chat partner is more difficult than it should be. When someone from the old Gchat tries to befriend someone from new Gchat, the invitation often doesn’t go through. Or if it does, no one knows where to find it. 

These incompatible chats have made my happy place less chill. I’m here to stop it with this quick tutorial. 

1. Open up your Gmail account and mosey on over to the Gchat column on the left side of your screen. If you don’t know what Hangouts is, chances are you’re still using old-school Gchat. It looks like this:

2. Select the tiny downward arrow next to your Gchat icon.

3. Select Try the new Hangouts. Don’t worry; you’re not jumping off a cliff. You can always revert to the old chat if you hate how this works. 

4. You’re in the new Hangouts. You’ll notice that a few things have changed. Your friends’ names are ordered by who you chatted with last, not in alphabetical order, and the “online,” “away” and “busy” statuses denoted by colored dots have been swapped for a simple green bar that disappears when you sign off . The text below a person’s name is no longer her status. Instead, it’s the last thing she said to you. 

In old Gchat, you’d simply see a notification like the one below if someone wanted to chat with you.

In Hangouts, you have to click that arrow icon and scroll down to Hangout invites.

5. Some invitations might be from contacts in your address book or Google+ circles. Others might be complete strangers, labeled Everyone else. Shady that strangers can request to chat with you? Yes! But not an entirely new concept at Google either. Choose to accept or decline and then click Back.

6. If you really hate the new Hangouts, you can always go back in time by clicking the arrow next to your Gchat icon and scrolling down to revert to old chat. 

My recommendation? Stick with Hangouts. Who knows what might get lost in translation the next time Google updates this feature?

Alyssa Bereznak can be reached at alyssab@yahoo-inc.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @alyssabereznak.