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There has always been some element of apprehensiveness with regards to Google’s step into the social networking sphere.

Google Plus seemed to have everything but targeted to nobody in particular. However, the trend of annexation from Google + has seen Google Photos and recently Google hangouts remove itself from under the umbrella of Google plus. Google Hangouts now have some autonomy, with its dedicated website that allows it to offer chat, talk and video solutions and all the features from Google plus.

Perhaps it is time to start taking Google hangouts seriously, especially considering the effort put into it. It is now much sleeker, with the new material design giving it a new look and a seamless feel. The transitions between various tasks are now more seamless. Its interface is also much simpler. To compose a new message or start a new conversation, Google now has a new compose button much like in the GMAIL app. The contact list is streamlined, such that it is much easier to find contacts. It is also much easier to send attachments; emojis, GIFs and even locations to other people. Google has also rededicated itself to fixing bugs, making Hangouts much simpler, faster and reliable, with the bonus of less battery consumption.

However, perhaps the biggest step Google has taken in terms of endearing hangouts to users is the launch of the stand-alone website. For those looking to use hangouts without logging in to Gmail, Google ChromeHangouts or Google Plus, the standalone website is the perfect solution. With the stand alone website, one can easily message friends or start group chats. It is possible to add up to 100 people in a group chat, with support for Emojis, Gifs, maps, stickers and photos. Through the hangouts website, the setting up of video calls is also much easier. Video calls can either be one-on-one or be involved groups of up to ten people. Conversations that happen on the website also sync across all the mobile devices allowing conversations to continue the HangoutsAndroid or iOS apps.

One thing users will notice the intuitiveness of the website. The right side has huge buttons for setting up the video calls, messages, and phone calls. On the left are the smaller icons for viewing chat history and starting new conversations. The icon with three dots on the left brings up the link for the apps on Android, iOS and Chrome, as well as the settings, where one can access such features as the wallpaper.

The move to its dedicated website is similar to the path Facebook took with its messenger service. While Google executives say the change in structure was to give an inspirational hangouts experience to consumers, it came much too close to similar changes the Skype made when launching Skype for the web. Not one to be left behind, Google has readily upgraded its services, coming up with what many say is the beginning of social networking 2.0. Google seems to be taking a big share of social media places, and hangouts are at the center of it all.