WebRTC World Feature Article

February 11, 2016

A Better Call in Google Hangouts Now Available with P2P Infusion


Peer-to-peer (P2P) is a phrase that's given technology developers hope and terror alike. While P2P has been one of the most prized developments in mobile payments, it's also been the potential death of the recording industry.  For Google Hangouts, it means better functionality, thanks to P2P's help in improving overall call quality.

The change was noted by an alert Reddit user named kxra, who noted that P2P connectivity had been added to the Google Hangouts Android app. From there, some note that it's a fair bet that Google Hangouts is turning to the WebRTC API, also developed by Google, which in turn offers support for P2P data transfer. A subsequent followup question to Google yielded a noteworthy point: Hangouts would route video and audio transmissions to P2P connections when such a thing was possible.

Such a move, in turn, would likely yield better connectivity, making for not only better speeds, but also better call quality, since calls no longer need the middleman of Google's servers. Some users were concerned about this development, however, and noted that such a move could leave IP addresses exposed, which could be used potentially to find out more about the user on the other end. However, it should be noted that no way has yet been found to actually recover an IP address from Hangouts, and in the process, users likely will see improvements in overall operation as a result.

The question becomes whether or not a potential risk of backtracing is worth the clear benefit of better calls. For most, the answer would likely be a clear yes; after all, a backtraced IP would generate what in terms of personal information, the kind of thing that's likely a Google search away already? While backtraced IP might reveal some geographic location—region, city and town are potentially on the docket—and that might be used along with basic White Pages data to winnow down the possibles, it's still something of a long shot. Even then, an IP search might show somewhere completely different, as it shows the location of the connected computer. I checked my own IP address and it was showing me as being far, far away from where I was sitting. This is something of a different point for gamers and streamers, however, as an IP address could result in a more direct attack on such activity. Still, for most regular users, the chance of an IP address causing problems isn't very strong.

Concerns over IP addresses may be a bit overblown , and improved call quality in Google Hangouts will almost certainly be welcome. The P2P move is one that's likely to stay on hand for some time to come.





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