The other night in preparation for the Tech 621 class presentation on Internet Culture tomorrow night, we decided to have a Google Hangout. As someone who has been on Google+ since the first week it was around, I had never utilized the Hangout. Now that I’ve finally been able to hang out, I think I can fairly evaluate it.
The interface is very simple and easy to follow, similar to Skype. However, the big difference that Skype does not do, is that Hangout changes the video of the speaker as someone talks. It works fairly well, although if more than one person is talking, it does pick one person over another, which is fine. In fact it makes the conversation feel more natural, and almost as if it is in person.
You can also share YouTube videos with your friends in the hangout. We watched one of my favorite scenes of the Hanson Brothers from my favorite hockey film Slap Shot while waiting for everyone to join. I really see this as being a very useful as maybe sharing information for businesses or even friends wanting to watch their favorite YouTube videos with each other.
From a more practical note, it would have been nice if you could share more Google features in the hangout. For example, what about sharing Google Docs in a hangout? For example, one of our group members could not use Google Docs and the Hangout app. Whether that is because of their computer or not is another story, but it’s worth noting. What about Google Calendar? What if you have a group of people who are trying to plan something? It would be nice to see everyone’s schedule.
Overall, Google did very well with Hangout. I’ll definitely be using it again. For someone who prefers face-to-face meetings, this definitely has changed my opinion a little bit about that. It would be nice to see more of the other products that Google offers integrated, but let’s not forget that Google+ is still in beta. I think if Google could incorporate some of the functions of Google Wave into its hangout, I think it would have an unbeatable product.