Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Google I/O 2013: Google unifies its messaging under new 'Hangouts' service

As reported earlier, Google was working on unifying its disparate messaging services. The company announced the new service, Hangouts, at Google I/O on Wednesday.

Hangouts will, of course, confuse those who are aware of Google+ Hangouts. Still, the new service will replace Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, and the original Google+ Hangout video chat service, which has been used for varied things such as chatting among friends to unveiling movie trailers.

Hangouts will eventually replace all of Google's communication services.

Hangouts is a messaging app, in the same realm as WhatsApp, Tango, and Facebook Messenger, but with its own pluses and minuses.

Unlike many apps, which show a list of contacts, the Hangouts app will display a list of recent conversations on the left-hand side of the window, along with profile photographs. To initiate a new message, there is a "plus" symbol atop the screen.

As with the original Google+ Hangout service, the new Hangouts allows any conversation to become a video call. The same limitation exists as in the Google+ version: you can only do so with up to 10 friends. Google's Vic Gundrota hinted why the company went with an existing name rather than a new one:
We want to fill in all the boxes so people can just focus on the obvious, which is just hanging out.
Notably, conversations are saved in the cloud. That could be good, as it allows users to have historical conversations they can review ("You told me bla-bla"). It could also be bad, as some folks might not want that type of functionality.

The service will be launching as a new standalone app called Hangouts for iOS devices, Android, and on the desktop some time today. At that time, we'll check it out to determine if the cloud storage feature is optional, or not.

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