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Google quietly starts 720p HD Hangouts rollout

The company is able to offer HD video through the use of VP8, an open video codec it's using to replace H.264.

James Martin/CNET

Google has quietly started to roll out HD video for its Google+ Hangouts service.

Google Vice President Chee Chew confirmed the news to GigaOm in an interview published Wednesday, saying that the search company has begun the process of transitioning its Hangouts video-chatting feature from the H.264 video codec to an open, royalty-free alternative it announced in 2010, called VP8. According to GigaOm, VP8 is capable of pushing out 720p HD video on Hangouts.

But Google doesn't expect to stop there. The company told GigaOm that it plans to transition to the WebRTC standard eventually. WebRTC is believed by some to be the next big thing in online communication standards, due mainly to its ability to deliver real-time audio and video without the need for additional plugins. Google has touted the standard, and Chew said that there's a good chance it'll come to Hangouts at some point in the next several months.

Until then, however, Google plans to continue to roll out VP8 720p HD for Hangouts.