This was probably inevitable: Google today announced that it is replacing video chats in Gmail with Google+ Hangouts. The company first brought video chat to Gmail in 2008, but ever since the launch of Google+, it was only a matter of time before the company decided to replace its old video chat feature with Google+’s marquee group video chat tool. Hangouts, Google says, “utilize the power of Google’s network to deliver higher reliability and enhanced quality” and will allow Gmail users to also reach people not only when they are using Gmail, but also “if they are on Google+ in the browser or on their Android or iOS devices.”
With Hangouts, Gmail users obviously also get a number of new features that weren’t previously available in Gmail video chats. Besides the fact that users can chat with up to 9 users simultaneously, Hangouts will now also allow users to collaborate on Google documents and share their screens. As Google notes, there are also a “bunch of fun effects” that users can try. (Update: It looks like both users need to have Google+ accounts for all of these features to work in Gmail.). Just like with Gmail’s video chat feature, Hangouts also requires users to install a plugin.
Ever since the launch of Google+, Hangouts has been considered the social network’s “killer feature,” but it remains to be seen how Gmail users will react to seeing even more Google+ features in their email client.
Google says that it is rolling this new feature out starting today, but the complete rollout could take a few weeks.