Google Hangouts Now Supports HD Video, Soon Powered by Plugin-Free WebRTC

Google Hangouts is one of the choicest features of Google+, and now it’s getting even better with an upgrade to 720p HD. The update has started rolling out over the last few weeks, and everyone will have it by the end of next week.

However, more notably, this development foreshadows a move to more open standards and a plugin-less world of video in web browsers. Google has been transitioning to the open VP8 video codec from H.264--a change invisible to end users other than the fact that the video might look a little cleaner--and VP8 will also enable the HD quality in Hangouts.

Google Hangouts
(Credit: Gigaom)

The next step is that Google will be using the WebRTC standard for Hangouts. WebRTC is a free and open project that uses Javascript APIs to enable real-time communication in web browsers, which obviates the need for plugins, and as a native HTML element, it would be easier to add overlays.

Google Plus Hangouts plugin

Of course, the complete transition to VP8 and WebRTC will take some time (and it’s not clear that the likes of Microsoft and Apple will include it in their Internet Explorer and Safari browserS), but WebRTC is reportedly coming within months.