It may seem like Google Hangouts has been around forever; but it’s actually a relatively recent creation, originally conceived to solve Google messaging fragmentation of yore. Today, its founding mission is almost complete, taking the company’s offerings from: Talk, Android’s SMS app, Google+ Messenger and Voice to simply Hangouts and, unfortunately for now, Google Voice. What’s now called Hangouts, was originally codenamed Babble and we now know Google spent two years working on Babble (now Hangouts) as the messaging service that would merge the company's vast and disparate communication services.
One year later, Google is still moving full steam ahead and adding new features. For instance, they completely redesigned the iOS client and gave it new features (free voice calling) before its Android counterpart. There is a great Chrome extension and the service has undergone cosmetic changes that make it better fall in line with the company's design language. For those who already live in Google's world, there is really no reason to not use it.
Beyond the Android user crowd, Hangouts is very well known and used due to its video chatting feature. It's been adopted by many people, organizations (even the technologically unsavvy ones), and especially news sites to talk with their viewers. It has a low barrier to entrance because it works out of the box with Chrome (now the most popular browser).
“Skyping” has become synonymous with video chatting and is the accepted verb for having a video call with somebody even when not using the now Microsoft-owned service. Skype's permanence in pop culture is set even if not too many people use it anymore and despite the fact it requires downloading an app on PCs that will never beat the instantaneous action of opening a browser window.
My biggest complaint with Google Hangouts is the name; it’s hard to make into a verb and generally not very unique. I cannot say something along the lines of we're skyping. The closest thing requires me to say we're "hanging out" Additionally, you cannot say I “skyped” and saying I “sent you a Hangout” is not nearly as eloquent. Google just choose a common word widely used by everybody rather than make up a world to call their service. When I'm already using the instant messaging feature of Hangouts, it's hard to message that I want to go to a video call with the current name. You might say to your friend “Let's do a Hangout” and they may reply “Arent’ we are already in one?”
In trying to encompass everything, Google made it hard to distinguish what exactly Hangouts is. Apple on the other hand escaped this problem with FaceTime, which is easily made into a verb (FaceTiming). They also gave their IM equivalent (iMessage) a separate term which makes it easy to tell what someone is referring to.
I myself am I proponent of Google having stuck with the codename ‘Babble’ -- the word is not in wide usage anymore and Google could have easily associated it with them. But it too has issues like making you sound crazy “I just babbled you dude”.
What do you think Google should have called Hangouts? Or do you like the name as is?