Google updates Hangouts with guest access

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Credit: Florence Ion

You no longer need a Google account -- just an invitation -- to use Hangouts

Google just made it a bit easier to have a business meeting – or any kind of meeting – via Google Hangouts.

The company announced Wednesday that people no longer need to have a Google account to use Hangouts. They just need to be invited to one.

"Joining a meeting should be as easy as walking into a room," wrote Patrick Wynn, a product manager for the company's Google for Work group, in a blog post. That should be the case whether you're meeting in person, or face-to-face over video … Connect with teammates and get things done, while maintaining the control and security you need in a work environment."

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Users can now join a Google Hangout without having an account. All that's needed is an invitation. 

The update to Hangouts, which was a feature first introduced as part of Google+, is being rolled out this week.

Wynn noted that to join a meeting, the user just needs to click a link in an invitation. The person making the request invites the guest through Google Calendar.

The process works the same whether you're using the web, mobile or Chromebox for meetings, according to Wynn.

"This is very helpful," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "While there may not be many people without Google accounts, it's impossible to use this in a commercial setting with the old account requirement. There only has to be one person who doesn't have or doesn't want to use their account to make it a problem."

He added that enterprises are increasingly relying on group voice and video chat for business meetings, so this will be a big plus.

"Video chats are already very common, and both Google and Microsoft are working to make them more common," Gottheil said. "Video and audio conferencing – all virtual meetings, even one-to-one conversations with customers are important."

In July 2014, Google moved to make Hangouts an option for enterprise users. That's when the company made Hangouts a feature in Google Apps for Business users.

Before that, Hangouts was known more as social medium that was used as part of Google+. Standing on its own, outside of Google+, made the feature more widely available.

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