While you probably haven't noticed any differences while enjoying a quick Google Hangouts video chat lately, there's some big ones coming. Some might have already received Google's latest improvements, but most will be waiting for a greater rollout later this month. So what's the big change? 720p HD video streaming with Hangouts. The move from the H.264 video codec to VP8 is almost complete.
In an exclusive interview the folks from GigaOM learned that Google has some pretty big plans for Hangouts and video chat in general, more than just offering a better HD experience. The move from the H.264 codec to VP8, which Google launched a few years back, will allow for tons of improvement and growth with Hangouts.
VP8 is a fast and efficient royalty-free video codec that doesn't require any 3rd party plug-ins. This means you can do efficient and smooth video streaming and calling in things like a browser, all with ease. Not only that but it's extremely efficient to the point where 720p HD video conferencing with 10 people is a breeze, when before it required tons of computing power. Browsers can now do these tasks like never before, and at a lower bit rate.
Gigaom reports that all Hangout users should be switched to VP8 by the end of next week, and then we'll start seeing a wider rollout of HD streaming for all users. So while we can't enjoy this quite yet, it will be available soon. Bring it to Chrome and Android and we'll be happy. The interview goes on to talk about the greater long-term plan, which is WebRTC, and that's the direction Google wants to take all of this. Which, we're all for.
It is a good read, and Google's own Vic Gundotra confirmed all the details this afternoon over on Google+ for those interested. Get ready for a new level of HD video, it's coming soon.