Google staffer Jarkko Oikarinen – also the inventor of Internet Relay Chat, the first-ever Internet chat function – used his Google+ page on Thursday to announce that outside phone calls can be placed from inside a Hangout. A Hangout is a virtual room that allows you to video chat with others.
That said, you no longer need a Google account or even a computer to join the conversation. A Hangout group can now call in anyone with a phone to listen in. This could not only lure more people to Google+ and grow its user base, but also has potential to revolutionize the way both party lines and conference calls are conducted — from holding meetings to making plans with friends and family.
“We are constantly listening to feedback so that we can make Hangouts even better for Google+ users, and we’re excited by the really cool ways people are using the product,” Oikarinen said.
Adding a call to a Hangout room is easy. First, click “Invite” at the top of the Hangouts with Extras window, and then select the “Phone” tab on the left of the window. After entering the phone number you want to call, choose “Call now.”
The feature currently supports free calls to the U.S. and Canada, and is now available on the Hangouts with Extras page.