If you never have experienced the nightmare that is attempting to make a Google Hangouts video call while in a hotel with several hundred people attempting to do the same, you’re probably wondering why this is good news.
Up until now, if you wanted to do audio or video on hangouts you’d send data from your phone to a Google server, which would then send it back down to the recipient. The added turnaround on this was a paltry few milliseconds, but it was noticeable against some other video chat clients.
If you’re on a horrible ISP or on a building that limits bandwidth going to the same IP, chances are you could get caught up using Hangouts to server in a speed trap designed well meaningly to prevent a hotel from turning into a DDOS box. Something I’m pretty sure that happened to me while at CES.
In cases where a direct connection to the recipient is not possible, Hangouts will fall back to the old reliable middleman servers, which hopefully are not being pounded by a convention’s worth of people calling home to their kiddos on one internet connection (the artifacting alone in said situation gave me nightmares).
It also minimizes some security concerns (such as Big Google is datamining everything you say on Hangouts,) but not all (such as the NSA being able to intercept and decode your audio).
There’s no writeup on whether it fails back to the server based model in the event of a bad direct connection, so if you happen to find that out be cool and let us know.
The changes probably take place in the February 3rd release of Hangouts, although they may have been in place before.
If you’re using Hangouts this week and it connects peer to peer, let us know if it works any better or worse.