Google Hangouts adds HD video, moves away from plug-ins with WebRTC

Above: A Google Hangout

Image Credit: Google
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Google Hangouts is already a good option for casually connecting with friends or business meetings, but now the service is getting an upgrade to 720p HD video.

GigaOm reports that HD video has rolled out to some users and will reach all users over the next few weeks. This means all those fun conversations you have will look better than ever.

Google is moving away from the H.264 video codec to VP8, a royalty-free codec that it launched in 2010. Using the VP8 codec means video Hangouts will be in high definition, which wasn’t previously possible with H.264. That’s because hosting a 10-person video call with H.264 apparently takes a lot of processing power.

This move to VP8 also indicates that Google will be moving toward a completely plug-in free experience for Google Hangouts. Whenever you first start using Hangouts, you have to download a browser plug-in that enables it to work. Some folks (including myself) find extra downloads to use web-based software annoying.

So how will Google achieve a plug-in free experience on desktop and laptops? By embracing the emerging WebRTC standard. WebRTC is a protocol that makes browser-to-browser and browser-to-server communications more responsive. Google will be tapping Vidyo’s WebRTC tech to help update Google Hangouts. Expect a plug-in free Hangouts experience to emerge in the next few months.

“This is great news for the WebRTC community and takes our relationship with Google to the next level,” Ofer Shapiro, cofounder and CEO of Vidyo, told us. “WebRTC provides a vision of new communications possibilities for video-enabled web applications, and by leveraging Vidyo’s expertise in SVC [scalable video coding], we will jointly create a path to accessible quality video.”


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