Over the last few weeks Google has started to roll out 720p HD Hangouts video support to a subset of its users, it has been revealed today. Google’s Vice President of Engineering, Chee Chew has confirmed the move in an interview and said that this switchover will be more or less invisible to consumers, though they’ll get cleaner and better video, Chew says. The rollout of HD video support in Hangouts for all users will be completed soon.
To make this happen Google has transitioned Hangouts video chats from H.264 video codec to VP8. VP8 is a royalty-free and open video codec that Google released back in 2010. The codec enables HD video streams at low bit rates, this wouldn’t have been possible with the previous codec, too much processing power would have been required to show HD video streams from 10 participants in a Hangout. Google isn’t stopping with this transition, the company plans to move over to WebRTC in the future. WebRTC standard has the ability to deliver audio and video in realtime without requiring any additional codecs. Chew says that there’s a possibility that WebRTC might come to Hangouts eventually, though this transition could take more than a few months.