Google will begin replacing Gmail's existing video chat system with a new, better one based on the Hangouts feature from its Google+ social networking service, the company said Monday.
The swap will improve the quality and performance of Gmail video chats, and, if users have Google+ accounts, they will be able to communicate with multiple people -- up to nine participants as long as all have Google+ accounts. So far, Gmail's video chat feature has allowed only for one-to-one sessions.
Other new features for Gmail users who also have Google+ accounts will be the ability to watch YouTube videos simultaneously, collaborate on Google documents and do screen sharing.
In addition, the change also expands the scope of people Gmail users can video chat with beyond their Gmail contacts to now include people in their Google+ circles.
Another improvement is that Gmail video chat sessions will no longer be limited to computer browsers but rather be possible as well on Android and iPhone tablets and smartphones.
Google will roll out the new Hangouts video chat in Gmail gradually over the coming weeks, starting with personal Google Accounts and then moving to Google Apps, the cloud-based collaboration and e-mail suite for organizations that includes Gmail.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.