Hangouts is growing up.
Google recently launched a dedicated website for Hangouts that offers everything you’d expect from the messaging service on PCs. You can carry out instant messaging conversations, group Hangouts, as well as one-to-one voice and video calls. The new site also joins the trend of popular messaging services offering web apps, including Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger.
To hear Google tell it, this is just another warm, fuzzy way to access Hangouts. But the truth is this product is coming in just as another one is falling out.
Overall, the new Hangouts site is really nice. It includes beautiful full screen background images that change every few minutes. On the left side, you have a navigation panel to switch between ongoing conversations, a list of phone contacts, and your chat contacts.
The main part of the screen has three big buttons for initiating a new Google+ style video Hangout, a standard phone call, or text conversation. Beyond that there’s the usual links to your Google account and other Google services in the upper right hand corner.
The story behind the story: Google is clearly duplicating functionality with the Hangouts site since Google+ offers the same features. But for how long? Google is slowly dismantling Google+ into separate pieces and a dedicated Hangouts site appears to be part of that plan.
In February, Google’s then-product chief and now CEO Sundar Pichai said Google+, Photos, and Hangouts would become three separate products. You don’t get redirected to the new Hangouts site from Google+ the way you do with Photos right now, but that may be only a matter of time.