Google Hangouts started out as a simple IM service within the company’s social network, Google+, but has since morphed into a much bigger product. Built into Gmail, Android, and Google+, Hangouts handles all instant messaging within the Google ecosystem. In fact, before Lollipop brought back a dedicated messenger app, it also handled SMS for Android users.
Soon, Google could be expanding the functionality of Hangouts even further. According to photos posted on Twitter by @mattgibstein and this post on TechCrunch, Google is testing out a new feature that will see a Hangouts-powered chat functionality embedded into business listings in Google search results.
TechCrunch says it has received confirmation from Google that it is testing this feature while Gibstein draws comparisons to Path Talk, which allows customers to text a restaurant for further information and receive a direct response.
The difference here is that Google would presumably have business owners respond themselves, while Path Talk sees requests routed through Path’s own team of staff that contacts the business on your behalf and then gets back to you with a response. Google is just experimenting with this right now, so we don’t know how exactly it works. No doubt we’ll hear more once Google decides to take testing to the next level.