Google's new Hangouts messaging system makes it easier to keep in touch with friends

There were a lot of big unveilings at Google I/O -- an overhaul of Google+, updated maps, an on-demand music streaming service, and much more. But perhaps one of the most intriguing revelations was Hangouts.

This name may well seem familiar, but it now refers to a unified messaging system that caters for iOS, Android and Chrome users. There are apps and extensions available for each of these platforms, and the idea is to bring all Google related communication into one place.

This means that Hangouts serves as a replacement for not only its namesake service, but also Google+ Messenger, Google Talk and the original Hangouts video chatting service. In some respects this could be seen as Google’s answer to FaceTime.

So at its heart, Hangouts is a messaging app, but it does go well beyond the basics. In addition to regular text based chats, there is the option of performing video chats, sharing files and sending one of scores of newly designed emoticons. As the name would suggest, Hangouts has the potential to be used as a group hangout for several people and it’s easy to invite other people to join a conversation once it is under way.

As this is a cross-platform messaging system -- and it’s likely that many users will be working with a browser extension as well as a mobile app -- synchronization is extremely important. In Hangouts, it is not just messages that are synched, but also notification. This means you won’t be pestered by the same alert on multiple devices and you’ll be able to see your entire chat history no matter which device you have been using.

You can find out more and download a copy of the apps and extension by paying a visit to the Hangouts review page.

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