Google has launched a brand-new dedicated Hangouts website, allowing you to send instant messages and conduct video calls through a web browser.
Yes, it’s very like faithful old Skype in that respect, but this is the first time Google has extended its latest messaging service to a standalone website. Before, you could access it on a computer through Gmail, a Chrome extension, or via a Chrome app.
The new website itself is precisely what you’d expect from a modern Google service: stylish, minimalistic and extremely functional.
Current messages take up the left third of the screen in way that will be familiar to users of the Hangouts mobile app on Android and iOS. To the left is a small vertical bar that switches this view to Contacts or Phone calls, as well as to access the deeper settings.
That leaves a vast expanse of screen that’s given over to just three chunky buttons for initiating video and phone calls, or for starting a new message thread. The background, meanwhile, cycles through a series of attractive landscape shots taken from Google+.
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Starting a new video call navigates to a new web page, and may require the installation of a Hangouts plugin if you’re not using Chrome. You’ll need to grant permission to use your computer’s camera and mic, too.
The Google Hangouts website is available to access now to all with a Google account.
Next, check out what we think of the current Android flagship phone, the Nexus 6: