Some of you may have already noticed that your Hangouts video looked significantly clearer the last time you fired it up. That's because Google has transitioned from the H.264 video codec to VP8, and with it, the company has introduced HD streaming. Google started rolling out the change to users in the last few weeks, but it will still be a while before this rolls out to everyone.


Google introduced VP8 back in 2010 as an open and royalty-free format allowing users to watch video in browsers without the need for any additional plugins. Google asserts that streaming HD streams to ten participants using the H.264 codec would have required too much processing power. Using VP8 allows them to stream higher definition streams at lower bit rates.

The industry is moving towards adopting WebRTC, an emerging standard that would allow users to launch video chats in the browser without the use of apps and plugins. Google isn't the only company to push for the new technology, but it has integrated the necessary bits into the desktop and Android versions of Chrome. It's no secret that Google wants Hangouts to utilize WebRTC, but the standard needs more time to mature before the transition can be made. Some functionality, such as the effects that Hangouts allow users to apply, don't yet work with it.


But that's all long-term. As for now, your decision to purchase that HD webcam is about to be re-validated. And if the functionality hasn't already rolled out to you, just to be patient. It's coming.

Via: Google+: 1, 2, GigaOM

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • Phil Oakley

    Need a full stop at the end of the second paragraph, Bertel.

    This is great. It's amazing what you can do with the web.

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      Thanks. Added.

  • daas88

    It's funny to see people's faces on videocall software screenshots. In reality you'd see people on pajamas, in a dark, messy room and probably some body parts showing around.

    • Matthew Fry

      Yeah. And everyone's so damn happy. It's creepin' me out.

    • Scott

      Yeah the faces are ridiculous.

      • Scott

        I swear somebody follows me around and just downvotes me for some reason.

        • sssgadget

          There I helped you. :P

          • http://GPlus.to/Abhisshack Abhisshack

            Me too ;-)

    • El_Goog

      ... while they're asking Siri where to hide the dead body.

  • woj_tek

    and yet, hangouts still sucks! absolutely no controll over who is online or not nor any sane contacts list... (this morning I just started to bang my head becasue this brilliant piece of arse shaite duplicated one of my chats with one buddy and this new chat/hangout wasn't popping up in the browser - only on the phone... for crying out loud!)... and what happened to open standard XMPP?! google, go ef-of yourself you this 'open standards' arseshaite...

    • Peacen1k

      Couldn't agree more.

      Can't decide which is the worst Google product this year: Hangouts or the new interweb Playstore...

    • Ishimaru

      Angry much? People who are online have a green line next to them.

      • woj_tek

        from what I've noticed - those are *connected* folks, not *online*... got the difference?

        and yes, I'm pissed...

        • Ishimaru

          It's just software. No need to get so angry. Use Pidgin on Windows or Adium on OS X if you don't like Hangouts.

          • woj_tek

            I'm doing so, but hello-hello, with android 4.3 I have no way to downgrade to gtalk (like it was possible on earlier versions) - this what make most angry...

          • CoreRooted

            Then use a different XMPP client? Seriously... all the complaining about Hangouts/Talk isn't going to change anything. It is what it is; a free product that Google can do whatever they want with. Did you honestly believe it would just stay the way it was forever?

          • woj_tek

            dunno... what I know is that it's one less google service I'm using (jumped to own deployed xmpp server with different client, d'oh)... only mail and calendar left, but plain old imap works like a charm without uber-dumb google additions and incompatilities... >:

          • Mark Curtis

            My text message program (messaging) has been broken since I got the phone, it won't tell me who is at their phone. I even tried on a variety of phones and it's the same bug...

      • Cory_S

        they do on desktop versions, but the mobile client is pretty difficult to tell what the status is.

        • marcusmaximus04

          On the mobile app, offline people's icons are greyed out. I do think it'd make sense to have an "Online Contacts" list or a way to sort by status, at least until they finish the transition away from such concepts.

          • Cory_S

            I've heard many people say offline contacts grey out...but my app has never exhibited that behavior.

          • marcusmaximus04

            I know for me, the vast majority of contacts I actually talk to show up as online always, because they have phones that are always connected. But if you look under the "New Hangouts" page and scroll through the list, you should see some grayed out ones(at least if you're like me and have at least some contacts who are never online)

          • Cory_S

            Ah, now I see what you guys mean. I never use that page anymore because all the people I talk to have open chats on the main page, which is a solid color no matter the status.

          • marcusmaximus04

            Ya, I think that's probably why Google is moving away from the whole "online" thing. Most people you'd chat with using it have smartphones that are always online(barring lost reception or battery dying). The relevance of that idea is quickly diminishing

          • pfmiller

            Online is irrelevant. However "idle" and "busy" are not, and never will be.

    • stubleu

      I've been saying this for months to one friend who's become a complete hangout evangelist and it doesn't seem to deter him.

    • RitishOemraw

      As a fake representative of Google I apologize on behalf of the company I do not represent for forcing you to use hangouts. Clearly your monetary contributions to the platform have been vital in the creation of hangouts and as such we feel unworthy of developing this app any further knowing that you could do a much better job than any of the employees at Google. Please show us how it is done and let us revel in the awesomeness that is your messaging-app coding skills.


  • http://www.google.com/profiles/moneta.mace Mace Moneta

    H.264 is hardware accelerated; is VP8 hardware accelerated on most mobile platforms? If not, Hangouts will be using more battery, and less capable devices will be getting even worse performance. This reminds me of the early years of Windows, where nearly every release required a hardware upgrade just to keep up with demands by the software.

    • Thomas’

      H.264 decoding is usually hardware accelerated - but are you sure about encoding?

      • http://www.google.com/profiles/moneta.mace Mace Moneta

        Most mobile devices can record video in H.264, and I doubt they are encoding in software.

    • John

      I was wondering the same thing about mobile(if the HD is possible)... In the picture it looks like you can control if the HD is enabled or not. Hopefully thats on mobile too because the picture seems to be desktop.

    • TonyArcher

      Android utilizes ARM Neon, whether it is for h.264 or VP8

  • John

    I dont get the whole "I hate that I cant see who is online or offline" thing... If I send a message to my friends and they dont respond, I move on with life. What does it take like 3 seconds to send "hello" to someone. Stop being such a premadonna wondering if they read your message or are they going to respond or I wonder if they are busy or not. If they dont write back they are busy!! Here comes the well I shouldn't have to ask...blah blah

    • andy_o

      Or they don't have Hangouts installed, and they will never know you tried to contact them.

      • Fatty Bunter

        Yep. That covers everyone on an iPhone that doesn't have the G+ app, which is a lot of people.

    • Fatty Bunter

      I bet you'd just be fantastic to work with. Criticism? Rage.

  • Dee Norbert

    Well bring HD videocall to mobile too :|

  • Squiddles

    So no plugin required in browser? I've already got issues with the plugin not even working on Linux. Though, it has been a while and a couple versions since I last tried.

  • http://www.guyrcook.com Guy R Cook

    Well, now we start a pool in our circle to see who get's this last? OR do we start a pool to see who get's this first?

  • MrBurrrns

    Little nitpicking here: The article makes it seems like VP8 is superior to H.264 which is simply not true. H.264 is still more efficient and offers better quality than VP8. The only reason Google is switching to VP8 is because they have no control over H.264 and they want to avoid the licensing issues that come with it.