Back in late 2008, Google
added video chat capabilities to Gmail
, giving users a viable non-Skype way to communicate with friends, family, and coworkers. Not quite four years later, Google has updated the Gmail's video chat service with Google+
The original version of Gmail video chat used peer-to-peer technology, but Hangouts (to quote the official Gmail Blog) “utilize the power of Google’s network to deliver higher reliability and enhanced quality”. Gmail users will all get the Hangouts update, but Google+ users will get a little more from it, including the ability to chat with up to 9 people, collaborate on documents and share videos, share your screen, and add effects.
Hangouts are available to people using Gmail and Google+ on a desktop Web browser or on Android and iOS devices, which shows how far Google has come in its effort to unify users’ screens and its services.
The updates are rolling out today and will continue for a few weeks.