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Google+ gets poll feature, Hangouts video-chats get set free from browser

Days after saying it was in social for the "long haul," Google unveils new social software: a tool that lets Google+ users poll friends, and a Hangouts app for Chrome OS and Windows users.

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The app, shown here on a Chromebook, runs outside a browser window. Google

Google on Thursday introduced two new social software features: A polling feature for Google+, the company's social network, and an app for its Hangouts video chat service that works with Google's Chrome operating system and Windows desktop computers and lets people chat outside of a browser window.

The polling feature lets people get opinions from friends and followers on Google+. They can create polls with up to five choices and spruce them up with photos uploaded from Google+ photos, a mobile device or Google image search. The company said the feature will be available for Android, Google's mobile operating system, in the next few days, and is coming soon for Apple's iOS mobile OS.

"Starting today, you can use polls on Google+ to settle the burning issues of our generation...or at least find out what your friends are thinking," Dennis Troper, a product manager director at Google+, wrote in a blog post.

The Hangouts app for Chrome and Windows lets people video-chat with contacts and access those chats outside of a Web browser (which wasn't possible before). That means conversations happen on top of whatever else you're doing. The app also supports voice-chats, phone calls and SMS text messaging.

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A poll created with the new Google tool, on the Google page for the "Hunger Games" films. Screenshot by CNET

The two new offerings come days after Google+'s new chief, David Besbris, said Google was in social for the "long haul." Besbris said the company is happy with the social network's progress, but he declined to give user numbers.

Last month, Google announced it had acquired the online polling startup Polar, which is presumably the basis for the new Google+ feature. While the addition of polls bolsters the social network's offerings, it seems to run contrary to some of Google's recent moves around unbundling features from Google+.

For example, the company will reportedly break out the social network's popular photo features and make them a standalone brand. Hangouts, which has seen a lot of recent expansion, was born as a Google+ feature.