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Finally offline

For months now my Google Hangouts has been showing me as either available (when I’m online) or away (when I’m offline) but never offline. It has been driving me crazy trying to work out why I stopped appearing as offline when I had signed out of everything.

Initially I wondered if maybe the problem was that Hangouts was trying to be special and have people always online. It really doesn’t seem to like you signing out of it, it is about 5 taps on your mobile device if you want to logout and the Chrome extension has no option at all.

To try and counter this I signed out of all devices I had and I even uninstalled it on some and yet, I still remained ‘away’. This may not seem like a big deal but the issue I have with it is that if you’re away messages still go to you but if you use a different messaging application (like Pidgin for example) you never actually see them. They just sit there waiting for you to load Hangouts again to see them, by which point they were probably days/weeks/months in the past. You also never receive ‘offline messages’ notifications because, technically, you’re never offline.

My next thought was that maybe it was my new phone causing the issues but I realised I hadn’t received any ‘offline messages’ to my gmail in months and the problem pre-dated by new phone.

So I was back at square 1 trying to work this thing out. It is incredibly difficult to find help on the internet when your search is something along the lines of “Always away on google hangouts” but finally, I recently found something that may have been of use. The information was actually for people who were having issues staying in Invisible mode because Hangouts had you logged into another session somewhere, that you weren’t invisible.

Unfortunately, Hangouts doesn’t tell you this or give you any indication of what that device is, or the option to kill its session.

Fortunately however, there was a way to check whether you had multiple sessions or devices connected to Hangouts and all it required was Pidgin, which I already had installed (bonus!). Pidgin has an option to check user info and it shows all the places they’re logged into. It’s not the most useful information but it tells you that yes, you are logged in somewhere. Then you have to set up your Pidgin to login as those devices, go offline and do it over and over until you have no sessions.

I did this and success! Only one session, or so I thought.. after a few minutes one of the sessions popped back up and showed as away and appeared to be causing all my problems. One thing the internet was useful for was, how to identify what type of device a session is coming from and I was able to determine it was an Android device, so I logged into Hangouts with of the possible options I had and they both had their own session and a different device name to the one that was causing me issues.

This concerned me somewhat because if it wasn’t any of my Android devices then, whose was it?

Some Googling suggested it could have been an old session and I’d just have to wait for it to die but that can take 30 days! Yes, the Hangouts session timeout is apparently 30 days.. I couldn’t believe it, I wasn’t willing to wait 30 days and see what happened.

I decided it was time to change my password, in theory if there was some random device out there connected to my account this would fix the problem and if it wasn’t some random device, after 30 days the session should hopefully die.

So I changed my password and slowly all my devices started prompting me for the new one and.. that mystery session disappeared! However, I was still showing as away.

I set a reminder in my phone for 30 days to see whether the session would still be hanging around by that point but fortunately, within a few days it dropped off. Finally, I could be offline if I wanted to!

I’m glad it annoyed me so much that I actually started to investigate it properly because it allowed me to find out that there was a device logged into my account that I wasn’t aware of. Hopefully it is something that I did at some point and forgot about but there is always that fear that it wasn’t.

6 thoughts to “Finally offline”

  1. Sounds like a clusterfuck to deal with. I don’t really use Google Hangouts and I’m not sure what it does, but I know it is a part of Google Plus. I’m glad you were able to figure it out. :D

    1. It’s actually not part of Google+ at all (thankfully.. It was pretty difficult getting myself free of the Google+ grips). It used to be called gmail chat and became Hangouts at some point, it’s just a messaging application basically.

  2. Well, this would have definitely got me in a tizzy, too! I’m glad you figured it out :) It’s good to change your password — just to be safe! Do you have the two-step authentication set up?

    1. It was so frustrating! I think the phantom session was actually because of Hangouts for Chrome and it actually had 2, one of which never seems to end.

  3. Ahh, that would have been so annoying. Hopefully it will actually work and stop setting you as away. :/ It was a very good idea to change the password. :D

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