Google+ Hangouts Upgraded to Be More Accessible
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has executed well over 150 feature additions or upgrades for Google+ since it launched the social network in June.
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 overseeing Google+.
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 "Share" buttons).
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 icon.
Earlier this month, Google added the ability for Google+ users to make free phone calls from within 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+ Stream.