After adding several major updates to Google+ earlier this year, Google has expanded the Hangouts feature with an eye towards integrating it with other services. Hangouts can now be initiated from any Google+ status message, and mobile app users will soon be able to start them as well, instead of simply joining. In fact, you're not even limited to smartphones — someone on Google+ can dial in any phone for voice-only chat. It's a feature that's been around for some time in Google's standard chat system, but we could see it integrating nicely with the existing document, screen-sharing, and video support in order to make Hangouts a fairly robust conference-call system.

 

Hangouts on Air, the broadcasting system currently limited to public figures like the Muppets, the Dalai Lama, and Fox News, will soon be available to a wider range of celebrities, and broadcasts will be automatically recorded and uploaded to YouTube as a private video. Eventually, Google will offer the broadcast features to us hoi polloi as well. Google is in the process of rolling out all of these features, so keep an eye out for the app update on your phone and the new links on Google+ itself.