How to get started with Google Hangouts

Google Hangout

For the last decade or so, video chat via the internet has been mostly a two way thing, but things are changing.

Ever since Skype first popularised video calling between families and friends who lived too far apart to see each regularly, most people treat it like a regular telephone call with pictures. You choose a contact, click their name, and chat.

Skype only added group video calling, for up to ten different people simultaneously, as recently as 2010. Apart from the fact that internet connections may not have been quite up to it, there simply wasn’t much in the way of demand.

Things are changing, however, largely thanks to Google Hangouts. What started as a feature of the company’s Google + social media service has become one of its defining characteristics.

Not only can you start a private chat and invite multiple people in, just as with Skype, you can also set a theme and set the chat to public – inviting anyone currently logged in to Google+ to join in and chat.

Create a Hangout

Starting a Hangout is simple – which is why they’re so popular. Just log in to Google+ (plus.google.com) and you’ll see the Start a Hangout button. The first time you click this, you’ll be prompted to install a plugin,

If you’re a Gmail user, you can also start a Hangout with any of your contacts in the left-hand pane when you check your mail.

Next to your account picture at the top of the list, you’ll see two buttons – one shaped like a phone and one like a video camera. The latter will launch the Hangouts browser appYou can also start a Hangout via the Google+ Android app.

Once you’ve installed the browser plugin, you’ll be presented with a launcher page that has several options.

You can start a private hangout and invite people in your circles to join – you can either add them by name or by entire circle. So if you want to bring in the whole family from around the world, you can.

Otherwise, you can set the Hangout to Public, so anyone can join. Give it a catchy name, and see what happens.

Public Hangouts

Of course, the flipside is that once you’re on Google+, you can join public Hangouts too.

Many major news channels and big websites regularly have open Hangouts with their readers, covering subjects as diverse as football scores to international development. You can chat directly to big names and celebrities through their Hangouts – it’s the next generation of TV.

You can find open Hangouts just by clicking on the Hangouts button on the right-hand side of the main Google+ page.

Good luck!

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