The Verge has an awesome, comprehensive look at Google’s new chat app. This was my favorite of all the Google I/O 2013 announcements, and I will be making all of my friends install it promptly. One of the main killer features that I think sets it above all the other chat apps is below.
Google says it’s put a lot of thought into reconsidering presence, and it actually works better in Hangouts than on other apps. Instead of using “read receipts” (first popularized on BBM and coming this summer to iOS and Android) or a blanket online / offline indicator, Hangouts inserts tiny little square avatars into the chat history, called “watermarks.” These watermarks show when somebody else is typing, but they also indicate how far others have read in the conversation.