Google Hangouts Chrome app updated w/ redesigned interface, OS X support

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 8.29.15 PMGoogle today updated its Hangouts Chrome app with an entirely new interface. Perhaps more notably than that, the app has support for Mac OS X users in addition to the trio of Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS. The UI has been refreshed to be more similar to the Android version of the app, a trend that has been increasingly common for Google services over the past few months.

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Google admits Hangouts doesn’t use end-to-end encryption, conversations can be wiretapped

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Following a Reddit AMA on government surveillance, Google has admitted that while it does encrypt Hangouts conversations, it does not use end-to-end encryption, meaning the company itself can tap into those sessions when it receives a government court order requiring it to do so. This contrasts with the end-to-end encryption used by some services, like Apple’s FaceTime, which cannot be tapped even by the company offering the service.

Motherboard noted that Google has always been vague about the level of encryption offered for Google Hangouts, and that when pressed by principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union Christopher Soghoian, the company would say only that messages were encrypted “in transit” …  Read more

Facebook Messenger for Android adds cross-platform video chat support

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Facebook continues to add new capabilities to its Messenger app today with the launch of a new video calling feature. A new video icon at the top of conversation threads will initiate a call, allowing participants to communicate across platforms over Wi-Fi or LTE connections.

The addition puts Facebook in competition with Google’s Hangouts, Microsoft’s Skype, and other similar services. Interestingly, web-based video chat has been available on the desktop for some time, and was previously powered by Skype.

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Google is rolling out Hangouts messaging via Google Voice Search

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We’ve received a couple of tips this morning that Android users are now suddenly able to send Hangouts messages via Google Voice Search (a feature which is often mistakingly referred to broadly as “Google Now”). It’s not clear when this long-awaited feature began to roll out, but it seems to be a change that Google is making on the server side…

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Amid turbulence, Google Plus loses its latest leader – Horowitz again takes over

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TechCrunch:

…confirmed with Google, that David Besbris [above] has left his role as the head of the company’s social and identity product. He has been replaced by Bradley Horowitz, a longtime VP of product for Google+.

Google Plus seems to be in tumult and it sounds like it is being dismantled for its good parts including Photos and Hangouts. Perhaps the feed will turn into a more Twitter-like product. Who knows at this point—we’ll likely get a roadmap at Google I/O in May.

As for new lead Bradley Horowitz, he never really left Google+ through Vic Gundotra’s departure and will probably oversee the split of the units which are said to have already been reduced by half.

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Google testing new direct-to-business chat platform powered by Hangouts

Matt Gibstein on Twitter: %22Super interesting: @Google search now offering the ability to chat with local businesses (a la @Path Talk). http:::t.co:eksoBhZ6wk%22 2015-02-24 16-08-49

Google is testing an interesting new feature in search, as spotted by one Matt Gibstein on Twitter. As you can see in the above screenshot, there’s a small “Chat” icon next to the phone number of a business called “Dizengoff” in Philadelphia—and it looks like clicking it will launch you into a chat session directly with that business via Hangouts.  Read more

Google testing a new virtual ‘Genius Bar’ for Google Play customer service

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Google has used its Hangouts technology in many ways over the last couple of years, and one big way was the introduction of a new service called “Helpouts” that lets people sell their expertise to others over video conferencing. Now, it looks like Google is bringing Hangouts to a new area: customer service on the Google Play store.

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British prime minister says he’ll ban encrypted chat apps if he can’t see your messages

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For several months we’ve followed the U.S. government’s attempts to work around encryption in chat apps, even taking the hyperbole to an illogical extreme at one point, but we haven’t yet seen similar threats from other nations… or at least, we hadn’t until today.

British prime minister David Cameron said today that unless the government is given backdoor access to encrypted messaging services, he’s just going to outlaw them:

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Google Hangouts for Android getting smarter with natural language parsing, consolidated contacts

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You’ve long been able to share your location with contacts in Hangouts chats, but the Google Hangouts for Android app is today getting a little smarter, noting when someone has asked where you are and automatically prompting you to share your location on a map.

Google indicates that this is merely the first step in building more intelligence into the app, describing it as “the start of something new.” Future versions of the app are thus likely to recognize more questions, offering the ability to answer them with a single tap.

The latest update to the app – which is rolling out during the course of the day – also offers a number of other new features …  Read more

Google Voice adds Verizon MMS support, native MMS for photo

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Google Voice has been granted a pretty decent update today, bringing the service to support MMS via a new carrier: Verizon Wireless. Additionally, Google has added native MMS support to the service for photo messaging and—if you choose to opt for Google Voice in Hangouts—you’ll be able to send photos as MMS like you would with any other normal attachment.

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Google Hangouts scores poorly in EFF’s study of most secure messaging services

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released a report examining three dozen messaging services and ranking them based on what it deemed are seven “security best practices.” While Apple scored the best among what the EFF called “mass-market options”, it along with Google and others didn’t do as well when compared to all 36 messaging services included in the report. Specifically, EFF noted Google’s services “lack the end-to-end encryption that is necessary to protect against disclosure by the service provider.” Read more