Google plans to open Hangouts for interoperability


Hangouts, the group video chat component of Google Plus that everyone’s been raving about, could eventually be usable with other video chat clients and services as well. Google Real-time Communications Tech Lead Justin Uberti wrote this weekend on his blog that the company plans to publish the specifications necessary to interoperate with Hangouts.

Opening up Hangouts could be a boon for developers of smaller third-party apps and possibly even kick-start the development of mobile clients (the feature is currently only usable from the desktop), but bigger competitors can’t be happy about this idea.

Om wrote last week, “Skype Video can easily be brought to its knees by Google Plus’ Hangout,” and it’s easy to see why: Skype users not only need a dedicated application, but also a subscription plan to use the service for group video chat. Hangouts, on the other hand, is a free service, and Google is working on making it run in many browsers without the need for any additional downloads. Add in the ability to connect with third-party apps, and Skype could really be in trouble.

Google’s plans to release the specs for Hangouts also tells us a bit about the way the company is looking at the various components of its new social offering. In the short term, Hangouts could well be the killer feature that gets people to sign up for Google Plus. But down the line, Google hopes to make the way it organizes your social graph the reason you use Hangouts. At that point, it will only make sense to empower third-party developers as well. Think of it as the way Twitter used its service to attract users first, and then opened the graph to third parties, and you get a picture of where things could be going for Google Plus.

Uberti also shared a bit more information about the technology behind Hangouts on his blog:

“At a high level, it’s based on XMPP MUC (XEP-0045) and Jingle (XEP-0166/167), with some other enhancements needed to handle our architecture.”

He also revealed that Hangouts was in part built by the people who came to Google after the company acquired the video conferencing provider Marratech in 2007.

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