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New Google+ features power up Hangouts

Google  announced several new features for Hangouts Wednesday.
Google announced several new features for Hangouts Wednesday.

By Craig Kanalley
Social Media Editor, NBC News

"Hangouts" have been described as the "killer app" of Google+ since the social networking site debuted last summer.

In September, a series of new features were rolled out, making Hangouts even more robust, including screen-sharing, "On Air" to broadcast to more than 10 people and Hangouts for mobile.

Wednesday, in a blog post, Google announced a series of new features and they all center around Hangouts. While "On Air" is still in testing with select accounts, like The Muppets, it will be expanded to more public figures. Google hinted that the feature could be available to all in the future.

Here are other Hangout features that were announced:

  • Ability to launch a Hangout from any post at any time; basically, turning the comments section into a real-time video chat.
  • "On Air" integration with YouTube; when you go "off air," the full-length recording of the Hangout goes to your YouTube account (private by default).
  • Phone integration so you can call anybody into a Hangout; free calls to U.S. and Canada.
  • A list of active Hangouts in the right-hand side of your stream.
  • Notifications to your mobile device when you are invited to a Hangout.
  • Virtual antlers for anyone in a Hangout — available this month, in the spirit of the holidays.

Googlers shared the news excitedly to their accounts. VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra posted about the new features with the hashtag #seasonforshipping. Community Manager Natalie Villalobos introduced the changes by saying, "Just Another Morning at Google+ HQ."

From their posts, word of the new features quickly got around the Google+ network. Gundotra's post was shared 482 times (see how it spread here).

Google+ power users applauded the news. Serial entrepreneur Tom Rolfson said, "More proof the Google+ team is listening and adding requested features." Business consultant Alex Grossman added, "Good to see Hangouts getting more attention."

Tech evangelist Robert Scoble called the new features "major," adding: "Looks like we'll soon be able to broadcast hangouts and record them, too. I hear these will come to a small set of users first, then spread to the rest of us. As soon as I get these features I'll use them a LOT. Good stuff!"

Read more about the new Google+ features here.

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