Gmail’s video chat capabilities are set to get a major revamp, with Google announcing that they’re replacing the current implementation with the option to start ‘Hangouts’ right from users’ inboxes. This is arguably the standout feature of Google+ and now Gmail users will also be able to video chat with up to nine people at once, watch YouTube videos together, collaborate on Google documents and share their screens.
Google notes that users participating in Hangouts need to have Google+ accounts for all of these features to work in Gmail, although standard one-to-one video calls will presumably work the same as before.
The company says users can expect better reliability and enhanced quality compared to Gmail's old peer-to-peer video chats. They’ll also get the option to reach contacts not only when they are using Gmail but also if they are on Google+ in the browser or on their Android or iOS devices.
Hangouts in Gmail will begin rolling out today and then gradually over the coming weeks. It’s an interesting addition to an already-handy service and comes hot on the heels of their Sparrow acquisition, which some believe could result in an official Gmail client for the desktop eventually.