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Google+ Hangouts gets private chats, history, and an app

Google's Google+ Hangouts group chat and video feature now supports one-to-one chats and a full history feature to go back in time.

James Martin/CNET

Google's Hangouts group chat feature is now a little more useful, with one-on-one conversations, a way to look back at chat history, and a standalone app for people who want to use Hangouts as a general communications tool.

New in the chat service, which is a headlining feature of Google's Google+ social network, is a way to do one-on-one chats with people during a group chat. Google is calling the new feature facetoface, and hopes it will get more people to use Google+ instead of jumping to another communication service.

James Martin/CNET

Google has also added a way to go back and see the entire history of a conversation, including text and photos. This can be turned off or cleared, though Google is pitching it as a way for people to quickly get up to speed on a group chat they might not have been a part of, and to pull up old entries.

Other additions include photos and emoji, and a back-end change that will get rid of notifications for a Hangout invite on other devices if you've accepted an invite elsewhere.

The changes were unveiled in San Francisco on Wednesday, during Google's keynote address at I/O, the company's annual developers conference.

Google hopes these new features and adjustments will de-fragment the Google+ Hangouts experience across devices. The company says the changes are arriving on the Web, and as free, standalone apps headed to Android and iOS.