Google Hangouts used to be a Google+ version of Google Talk, with the former eventually replacing the latter to be more social and more integrated into Google’s social network. However, with Google+ not achieving the popularity Google has hoped for, it looks like the company wants to make Hangouts a more separate entity. With its use for SMS these days, the popularity of the service must far exceed Google+.
As of the latest update, you no longer need a Google+ profile to use many of the features. More specifically, the changelog mentions what you can now do without Google+.
- Start Hangout video calls with up to 15 participants
- Include any external guests who have a Google account
- Add, change or join a video call in a Google Calendar entry (coming soon)
- Join or start a Hangout by URL or at g.co/hangout/ (and g.co/present/ to just present)
This doesn’t mean that Hangouts will now be entirely separated from Google+. Having a Google+ account will add features to Hangouts, like in-call apps and adding entire circles to chats. It’s definitely beneficial to have a Google+ account, but no longer necessary. This should make using Hangouts easier for friends and family, especially those who aren’t tech literate.