Updated Google Hangouts randomly ‘betaing’

Updated Google Hangouts randomly betaing

Now, I’m a bit of a sucker for beta software. I like it when I find an issue, or see a new feature. It makes the new shiny feel that bit newer, so Google betaing (yes, it’s not a word, but you get the idea) a new version of Google Hangouts is a cool thing to see. I didn’t even notice at first, then I saw the little ‘beta’ image on the bottom left. Then I saw the word ‘Google’ on the top left of the screen. What in tarnation?

Updated Google Hangouts randomly betaing

I know they do this all the time, but how many people using Google Hangouts have noticed it? So I did a little more digging to see when this had happened.

It turns out that it happened an entire month ago, and I’d never noticed. Eduardo Fernández, a Google software engineer had posted something up about it over on Google+ (where else?):

Today, we’re introducing a new calling experience for Hangouts on the web that loads more quickly, renders video more sharply, and streamlines the interface so you can focus less on where to click and more on what to say. We’ve been using this new calling experience at Google for a while now. It’s early days, but we hope you like it as much as we do. (Note: This is not available for Google Apps for Work customers.)

Key changes include:
• Calls that start faster and stay crisper, with higher quality video
• A more streamlined and immersive full-screen interface
• A simpler way to invite friends and family to your calls

If you want to go back to the version of Hangouts you’re used to, visit http://g.co/hangouts or click the menu at the top right and choose “Original version.”
We’ll be rolling out to a small group of users starting today and expanding globally in the days ahead. Keep an eye out and tell us what you think!

Interesting stuff – and using it seemed ok enough. Naturally, being a beta, there are a few missing things so far. There’s every expectation that once this comes out of beta, we’ll have this back:

  • The plug-ins don’t work. No more lower thirds, or whatever else you play around with when you’re having hangout.
  • Currently there’s no in hangout conversation window, so you’ll have to set one up using your normal hangouts chat app (or use the web version. Forgot about https://hangouts.google.com/, have you?).
  • The little window which allowed you to change bandwidth options is also missing.

What may be new: This is a new thing (I can’t comment, seeing as this beta rolled out four weeks ago as I said earlier, and have only noticed this week), but you can screen share. ‘Netflix and chill’ can now actually also mean to start the streaming app of your choice and actually share the experience with your buddy/paramour/kids from wherever you are. There are two options – one, to show the entire desktop, so whatever you see, they see. The other one is to focus on a particular tab or window.

Updated Google Hangouts randomly betaing

When I tried it out, it worked rather well, and it is a nice alternative to the Google remote desktop app, especially when you just want to look at something at the same time.

All in all, this promises to be a nice addition to the Google ecosystem when it finally comes out of beta.

Updated Google Hangouts randomly betaing