Google Hangout launched with much gusto at Google I/O this year. There has been much talk about the project that was apparently codenamed Babel and that it would make the Google Messaging finally make sense. There are currently multiple ways to communicate with someone in a form of a conversation on the Google platform. The obvious one is of course Gmail and Google Talk. Then you have Google+ Messaging which apparently isn’t the same thing as communicating with someone during Google Hangout. Then there’s the little used and likely little known feature of being able to message someone while working on a document together. After much anticipation though, while there things about Google Hangouts that are great and there are things that are lacking, this initial release of Google Hangout is mostly just a new flavour of Google Talk.
Let’s start with the good
The Google Hangout Chrome Extension is phenomenal. I like that even though it’s a Chrome extension, it’s also pervasive and you can access it even when you’re in under windows as it hangs around at the bottom of the screen and on OsX, it also shows up on the notification bar. I actually have slowly replaced using Mac Messages with Google Hangout at least for my primary IM account. The app that is powered by the Chrome extension is also aesthetically quite visually appealing. It’s simple and clean like the new Google+ themes. Google Hangouts (which is a replacement for Google Talk) on Android is also quite aesthetically pleasing as well.
The app itself has a few really nice features that I like especially on the Android version. I like that you now can add multiple people to the chat as well as include photos which they didn’t have before. The loads of of smileys isn’t particularly appealing to me but I know that’s one of the differentiators for apps like WhatsApp and Line.
More of the same
I do like that Hangouts is much more prevalent in Google+ as well. There was no way of accessing Google+ messages and if Hangouts is meant to replace Google Messages and Google Talk, this is definitely a good start. However, Google already had the Google Talk panel on the side from before.
While there is much said about Google Hangout video, Google Talk has been leveraging Google Hangout for video for a while. Yes, it’s awesome but it’s really no different then from before Google I/O.
One thing that really irks me and I didn’t realize this until Saturday when someone pointed out to me that you really can’t tell if someone is online on the Android client. That’s actually quite annoying. This is definitely a step backwards. I also don’t like the fact that Google+ Messages still exists. I would have hoped that they would have killed that app when they launched Google Hangouts.
There’s much to hope for with Google Hangouts as, just like Google+, I see a ton of potential for Google Hangouts as it’s already a pretty solid messaging platform. I really hope they take the best of all the other messaging apps that they currently have and release the best of breed.