If you enjoy video chatting over Gmail the way you’ve been doing it since 2008, better wave your last goodbyes to your buddy list.
Starting Monday, and continuing over the next few weeks, Google is going to be replacing Gmail video chat with Google+ Hangouts. “Unlike the old video chat, which was based on peer-to-peer technology, Hangouts utilize the power of Google’s network to deliver higher reliability and enhanced quality,” reads the explanatory blog post written by the Gmail team.
“You’ll be able to chat with all the same people you did before — and, in fact, with Hangouts you’ll now be able to reach them not only when they are using Gmail, but also if they are on Google+ in the browser or on their Android or iOS devices.”
The search giant is eager to promote the use of its social network, and has in the past attempted to blur the lines between users of Gmail, Google Maps and other Google services. If you’re logged into any of them, the company says, you’re logged into Google+.
Nefarious network-boosting purposes aside, Google Hangouts is clearly a superior technology. In our experience, Gmail video chat had a tendency to stutter and occasionally quit — a quality shared in the past with iChat video, but not with Apple’s Facetime, Skype or Google Hangouts.
Hangouts also scales a lot better, making it much easier to add new people to the meeting. Audio is spectacularly good at long range. It’s likely the best choice for a company looking for a free alternative to Cisco Telepresence, for example.
And then there’s the feature that the Gmail team hints at in its blog — the ability to add moustaches, beards, halos and other personal decorations — not to mention cat and dog masks — which will appear to follow you throughout the chat.