One of the most promising aspects of Google’s Hangouts chat service is its ubiquity. A client for Hangouts is available on Android and iOS, inside your Gmail in a desktop browser and even as a Chrome extension to break it out of the Gmail window.
It’s that last one in particular on which that today’s rumour centres, and it’s a welcome one. Google’s Chrome extension for Hangouts isn’t generally well-regarded – anecdotally, it often brings with it excessive resource utilisation, to say nothing of some questionable UI decisions.
Florian Kiersch reports (in German) that Google is testing a new Chrome extension that will bring a new Hangouts “experience”. As with every good project, it’s got a cool codename too – Ultra Violet.
The biggest change that Ultra Violet looks to bring to Hangouts on the desktop is a UI based on Google’s new Material Design guidelines (Florian refers to it as Quantum Paper). Most interestingly, this comes with a “chat heads” experience, a la Facebook Messenger.
There’s a few screenshots provided:
For now, it seems this new Hangouts experience is in testing and won’t make it out to the public any time soon. It requires APIs only available in the latest developer version of Chrome, which by virtue of its name is not ready for use as a daily driver.
At the moment, all information on Ultra Violet points to it being a Chrome extension. What we don’t know is whether Google intends to update Hangouts on Android. It’s obviously a candidate for a Material Design makeover, and the “chat heads” interface would be a welcome addition (and we’re sure Facebook will be impressed).
It’d also be nice to see Google address other concerns about Hangouts – it’s not possible to remove users from a Hangout, and the 99 user limit makes it impractical for some larger Google+ communities to use it for communication. Hangouts is a year old now, and Google needs to move its chat platform forward.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Chrome’s release schedule – as the new APIs make it into the stable release of Chrome, we’re more likely to see Google’s Ultra Violet Hangouts experience hit our desktops.
Do you use the Hangouts extension for Chrome? Are you looking forward to Ultra Violet? Let us know in the comments!