Google has added support for 720p HD videos in Hangouts. Earlier HD videos & video calls were only streamed at DVD-quality 480p. While Hangout is moving away from H.264 codec, it has adopted Google's standard web streaming VP8. The HD video is limited to 720p but there could be an increase to 1080p in the coming months. Users need to have HD capable webcam, more processing power, and more width to enjoy HD Hangout feature.
Along with the HD video upgrade, Google has made moved towards the open standards. Earlier, Hangouts used the closed H.264 standard as the main web streaming codec.
Earlier users had to install a browser plugin to use Hangouts correctly. But, with adoption of VP8 standard, Hangouts can be moved towards an open and plugin-less future.
What is VP8?
The video compression format VP8 was created by On2 Technologies and is owned by Google. It is a part of the WebM standard and aims at moving the web away from closed standards such as Adobe Flash, H.264, and Microsoft Silverlight.
VP8 and H.264 have same level of video and audio streaming quality but VP8 is more efficient when it comes to processing and network usage.
VP8 is the first step enabling the users do video chat via browser and without the use of plugins. WebRTC will be the next approach. VP8 only provides video & audio functionality, WebRTC provides full Hangouts experience.
Google completed the support for WebRTC and VP8 last week, with the release of Google Chrome 29. While Mozilla Firefox and Opera support these web media standards, Apple & Microsoft are yet to implement it full into their browsers.
Chrome for Android, Opera Mobile, and Firefox Mobile also support VP8 and WebRTC standards.
While HD Hangouts is initially being rolled out to "Hangouts on Air", a full desktop rollout is scheduled for coming week.Google+ Hangouts Switches from H.264 Codec to VP8, Now Supports HD Videos!,