Google's platform for instant messaging and videoconferencing
Hangouts is the instant messaging and videoconferencing service from Google. It can be accessed through Google+, Gmail and mobile apps for iOS and Android, as well as from a Chrome extension that lets you chat with your contacts directly from the Windows desktop.
Instant messaging and video calls
Hangouts is an instant messaging platform with all the conventional features of any good messaging service. Once you're logged into your Google account, you can send messages, images, and emojis to your contacts in one-on-one or group conversations.
The videoconferencing feature allows you to make video calls with up to 10 people simultaneously, no matter which device they're connected on. It integrates apps like YouTube and Google Drive, as well as sounds and visual effects, to let you have a little fun during calls.
Only the essentials
Once installed, you can access Hangouts from Google Chrome in the right hand corner of the screen above the Windows task-bar. When not in use, the window can be minimized to the notification area.
The Hangouts interface is unobtrusive and minimalist in order to focus on what's most essential: chatting. The main window simply displays a list of your contacts and a search engine so that you can quickly look them up. When making video calls, a larger window opens up, giving you access to all the apps and features associated with the video.
Everything you need
Hangouts is the perfect extension if you have a lot of contacts using the service. It's got everything you need to easily communicate with friends, with the added bonus of some pretty cool video calling features. The only drawbacks are that you can't make basic audio calls, and Chrome always has to be open to use Hangouts.