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Getting started with Google Hangouts in your browser

You can now use a dedicated Hangouts site for chatting with friends and hanging out.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

On Monday Google launched a new website devoted to all things Hangouts. Instead of forcing users to open one of many Google domains (Gmail, Google+, etc.) to access Hangout conversations, users can now simply point a Web browser at hangouts.google.com.

The website provides a similar experience to that of the Chrome Hangouts app, but instead of offering floating chat bubbles, any chats you bring out of page are the equivalent of smaller browser windows.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET
A chat window on its own Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

After logging in, you may be asked to approve the Hangouts plug-in for your browser. Not allowing the plug-in will result you in being unable to use Hangouts via the Web; so if you're intent on using it, you'll need to approve.

You can find a list of your conversations on the left side of the page. Clicking on one will open a smaller chat window on the lower-right side.

From here, you can type, send photos, stickers, emoji and all the normal content as you would using Hangouts in Gmail or on your smartphone. You can also drag and drop a photo to a conversation window for quick sending.

One feature worth pointing out is the ability to take conversation windows outside of the page. You can do so by clicking on the arrow at the top of the chat box that's pointing up and to the right. Once the chat window is on its own, it's free to roam around your various desktops and be placed anywhere you desire.

Clicking on the menu icon in the top-right corner will reveal a list of various options. Here you can view your contacts, a list of conversations or make phone calls. The latter option, along with the ability for a video Hangout, is available directly within the chat windows as well.

Also present is a link to each of the various Hangouts apps.

All in all, there's not a lot to Hangouts' dedicate site. It's minimal and exactly what you'd expect if Hangouts were a standalone app, only on the web.