Google is slowly rolling out HD Hangouts for its Google+ social network. Lucky users who have received the update can look forward to 720p resolution video. This update marks a move toward something bigger than just great video fidelity. Google is planning to abandon the H.264 codec in favor of its own VP8 codec. The codec was acquired by the company in 2010 and has since been open sourced.
After implementing the use of the VP8 codec, Google is planning to move Hangouts to WebRTC, the browser-based chat standard that Chrome and Firefox support. WebRTC will allow browsers to natively run Hangouts without requiring users to install a separate plug-in. Although this all sounds great, WebRTC will have less functionality than a plug-in based Hangouts experience. For one, WebRTC will only allow for basic video chat. Advanced features like Hangouts’ silly hats will not work with WebRTC.
The upgrade to HD Hangouts is rolling out over the next few weeks so be patient if you haven’t received the update yet.