Let me preface this with the admission that I haven’t used Google+ nor am I a tech blogger. I’m just a guy whose fiancée happens to be on the other side of the continent. And I think “Hangouts” are brilliant.
I think this “Hangouts” feature of Google+ is brilliant in that it addresses one very core problem with video telephony: the expectation of interaction. While you’re on the phone, you can be doing plenty of other things. While you’re on video chat, in a way, you’re on stage. You feel like your full attention should be given to the chat at hand. Which is a real bummer if all you want to do is…well…hang out with the other person.
My fiancée is beautiful. I love to look at her. But I’m in Washington and she’s 3000+ miles away. Thanks to video chat seeing her is no longer such a barrier. The problem is that we always feel like video chat forces us into having a “conversation”. What if all we want to do is enjoy each others’ company? I can still look at her when we’re not talking, but after some time “looking” turns to “leering.” And no one wants to creep out the woman they’re about to marry!
So we came up with a solution: We watch TV shows on our laptops together. (Everyone facing a long distance relationship – here’s a big tip for you.) We make sure we’re on the same site (Hulu or Netflix) or buy from the same online store (iTunes or Amazon) and then we sync up our strikes of our respective play buttons. And there we are, in each others’ company, just watching TV. To “hang out.”
Hangout isn’t new technology, it’s just a new framework for existing technology. And that can be just as revolutionary. Kudos to Google.