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Google+ hangouts integrated into Gmail

Google is revamping chat within Gmail by replacing it with Google+ Hangouts.

"Unlike the old video chat, which was based on peer-to-peer technology, Hangouts utilise the power of Google's network to deliver higher reliability and enhanced quality," Google wrote in a blog post. "You'll be able to chat with all the same people you did before and, in fact, with Hangouts you'll now be able to reach them not only when they are using Gmail but also if they are on Google+ in the browser or on their Android or iOS devices."

If both Gmail users have Google+ profiles, they'll be able to video chat with up to nine people at once, watch YouTube videos together, collaborate on Google Docs, and share a screen. The update also provides access to virtual effects, like pirate hats.

Hangouts in Gmail will be rolling out gradually, starting this week.

Video chat was added to Gmail in 2008; Hangouts launched last year with the release of Google+.

In May, Google unveiled tighter integration between Gmail and Google+. The change allowed users to stay in the Gmail environment when replying to Google+ notifications, and allowed people to comment on, view, and "+1" posts from within Gmail.