Google Dec. 14 made a number upgrades to raise the profile of Google+ Hangouts, the social network's video chat application, which enables up to 10 users to have a face-to-face conversation.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has executed well over 150 feature
additions or upgrades for Google+ since it launched the social network in
Yet the company seems to be paying special attention to Google+ Hangouts,
the video chat application that enables as many as 10 users to chat face-to-face.
Google has rolled out two major Hangouts upgrades, each
one announced by none other than Vic Gundotra, the senior engineer charged with
The first big upgrade in September, coinciding with the service's
rollout to the general masses, included broadcast functionality
called Hangouts On Air, Hangouts with Extra
(integration with Google Docs, etc.) and mobile hangouts.
In the latest boost, Google has worked to raise the profile of Hangouts for existing and new users. For example,
Google+ users can now start a hangout from any post on Google+
. Users simply
click "Hangout" under a post (between the "Comment" and
Previously, users had to trigger a hangout from the
Hangout link in the right-hand rail of the network. That option still exists,
but it may be more convenient for many users to trigger the hangout within the
context of a post.
Users may also see invitations in the comments of users'
posts inviting them to join a hangout in progress.
Google isn't the only one paying close attention to
Hangouts. Celebrities and persons of interest have used the service. The Black
Eyed Peas, the Dalai Lama and the Muppets have all used the Hangouts On Air feature
to broadcast their messages to the world.
Google inched closer to making the On Air feature broadly
available by making it available for hundreds more public figures, celebrities
and other Google+ users with large followings.
Users may also broadcast
whenever they choose, by clicking a "broadcast and record" button. Hangouts has also been integrated with YouTube so users
can upload any On Air recordings to their accounts.
In addition, Google added a Hangouts button to its Google+
Messenger group chat app for mobile phones, a feature originally named Huddle.
Users can activate a hangout from a group messenger by tapping the hangout
Earlier this month, Google added the ability for Google+ users to make free phone calls
Hangouts. Now Hangouts users can dial in anyone, from almost any country, into
their hangout. Calls to the United States and Canada are free, and international calling
rates are super, super low, as per the Google Voice rules.
Finally, Google moved to boost Hangouts' profile by
adding the option to join up to three Hangouts on the right side of the Google+