Exclusive: Google+ Hangouts goes HD as it switches from H.264 to VP8. Next up, WebRTC. ? Tech News and Analysis (click for full article) by Janko Roettgers 6 HOURS AGO SUMMARY: Google is adding HD video quality to its video chats. But the upgrade isnt just about looks: Its part of a bigger move towards open standards and a plugin-free video chat experience. -- Noticed any differences when using Googles Hangouts video chat lately? If you did, then you may be one of the lucky users who has already received an upgrade to 720p HD video. The company quietly started to roll out HD for Hangouts to a subset of its users in the last few weeks and hopes to complete the rollout soon. But the change isnt just a quality upgrade its part of a bigger move towards open standards that will eventually bring us video chat in the browser without the need for any plugins. To enable HD, and prepare for this plugin-free future, Google quietly started to transition Hangouts from the H.264 video codec to VP8, an open and royalty-free video codec the company released back in 2010. Googles Vice President of Engineering Chee Chew told me during a recent interview that the switchover from H.264 to VP8 should be more or less invisible to consumers, with some possibly noticing a little less choppiness. It will be cleaner, better video, Chew said.