I have long been an advocate of Skype for both audio and video chat, as I am a natural extrovert with many long-distance friends. That is, until I joined Google Plus and discovered how user-friendly and fun Hangouts were. The social network was only a week old but the features that Hangouts already offered blew my mind. Back when my social platform of choice was Google Buzz, a group of us would sit around on rainy days and wonder how we could get a YouTube movie to stream on the site and we could all sit around and mock it. Maybe some Google staff were paying attention, as that’s the option they came up with to make Hangouts exclusive and unique among video chat messengers.
Hangouts are very easy to set up as there is no extra software to download, just a voice and video plugin, and once you have tested that your mic and webcam work, you are good to go. There is an option to mute your webcam, if you are having a bad hair day and would just prefer audio chat. Alternatively, if your mic is not working but webcam is, then you can type in the chat box and it’s just like group G-chat.
Starting a Hangout is easy, just click on the “Start a Hangout” button on the right hand side of the stream page on Google Plus. Once inside the Hangout, you’ll find three buttons on the bottom left. From left to right they are Invite, Chat and YouTube. To invite someone after a Hangout is in progress, click the invite icon. To bring up the Chat box, click on the Chat icon. To play a YouTube video, just click on the YouTube icon and a YouTube page comes up with 4 videos displayed and a search box above. Skype is good for one on one audio or video chat, but if you want to talk to 3 or more people on video chat, one person must have the premium program.
Free long distance
Free long distance
Can have up to 20 people in a conference call
Can have only 10 people at once
Video chat for 3 or more people involves premium membership
All features free, but no way to kick trolls out except for closing down the hangout
If host drops out everyone drops out
If host drops out everyone stays in and can invite him back
Uses a lot of memory, best with unlimited bandwidth
Low demand on CPU and memory, works even with as little as 1GB of RAM
The article on Skype showing how to set up a video chat seems unnecessarily complex. There is also an article on How to access Hangouts from YouTube, which I found useful.
You also now have Hangouts with Extras, which include both Google Docs Capabilities and Sketchpad, ideal for business meetings and/or informal meetings with friends for a weekly trivia hangout. Last week, we used Hangouts with Extras to test out how easy it would be to play Pictionary there. It was surprisingly easy, and is there anything cooler than playing games with friends in 3 different time zones?
As if anyone needed another positive reason to join Google Plus all you have to remember is, you can’t do this on Facebook or Twitter!