In the newest move by the Internet giant Google, whose pull is so big that even the US Chamber of Commerce sweats losing it as a lobbying partner, the social network Google+ will be endowed with the ability to host free phone calls to the US and Canada using its Hangouts video chat application and voip providers. Google+, which has been clinging to life with just over 40 million users, is leveraging its most popular feature: the ability for up to 10 people to conference at once, an application that has been used for live performances, classes, and tutorials. Users of Youtube have even found the two social media services integrated together.
Now Google is making a push to offer free phone calls and a dial-out service, a move which is expected to appeal to professionals who often use Google+ for conference calls. This feature will allow people to join in on a Hangout conference call from their phone, essentially bringing together people who are online using a hosted voip and people who are offline and who may not even have access to a computer.
This isn’t completely surprising, as Google has been fond of using its Voice phone services in many of its platforms. After buying Gizmo5’s software and essentially closing it down, they launched Google Voice in order to allow users to make free phone calls from their desktop. But with the Google+ phone service, they seem to trying to specifically market the ability of desktop devices to replace traditional phone services, though subtlety. The feature doesn’t exactly jump off the page. Users have to go into a special page and search for extras.
Other additions that don’t have to do with the phone service include allowing users to chat with people even if they don’t have their email addresses, as long as they are a part of their circle.
The free phone call feature, however, seems to be another push toward PC’s taking over more territory from telecommunications companies. Already people can tackle long-distance calls from their desktop using Skype. Yahoo appears to be following suit and is allowing free and low cost phone calls with its Phone Out service. But the fear of Google taking over shouldn’t get too hysterical. People said the same thing when Google Voice first came on the scene in 2009. Though Google Voice has been successful, it hasn’t exactly spelled the extinction of traditional phone services, nor has it made PC phone services more popular than mobile calls.