Although last week’s Google I/O event overflowed with new feature debuts, I noted on Thursday that one key Google service was absent: Google Voice. Instead we heard about Google’s new Hangouts app, a unified messaging service for the web, Android and iOS devices.
Hangouts has taken the place of Google Talk, which is what I use daily to make phone calls via Google Voice. Or at least I used to.
At the moment, users who upgrade to Hangouts on the web lose the ability to make voice calls through the old Google Talk. Incoming Google Voice calls can still be accepted through the new Hangouts, however. It turns out that Google Voice actually is a big part of Hangouts, it’s just not ready yet. Nikhyl Singhal, a product manager for all of Google’s real-time communications services said this on his Google+ page on Monday:
“Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice, and making/receiving phone calls is just the beginning. Future versions of Hangouts will integrate Google Voice more seamlessly.”
Singhal notes that from within Gmail, users can still place outbound Google Voice phone calls, so the functionality is still available; just not yet in the new Hangouts app or the Chrome extension for Hangouts.
On a related note, Hangouts still doesn’t use the open source WebRTC, or Web real-time communications, API that will allow for video, voice and file sharing without the need for plug-ins. Instead, the service is still built upon technology from Vidyo, which clarified the WebRTC situation in a blog post today. Google has confirmed the same to my colleague, Janko Roettgers.