What does the camera symbol mean in Google Chat?

Written by james holloway Google
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What does the camera symbol mean in Google Chat?
Google Chat, Google+ and Gmail are all Google products. (Courtesy of Google)

Google Chat, Google's instant messaging application, is an integral part of both Gmail and Google+, as well as being available through the downloadable Google Talk program. Some users in Google Chat will have a small red or green icon shaped like a video camera next to their names. This icon indicates that the video chat feature is available for this user.

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The camera icon

Gmail, Google+ and Google Talk users will all have their contacts displayed in a list, although the exact location of the list depends on the site and platform being used. For instance, the list appears on the left-hand side in some Gmail layouts, but on the right in Google+. The contacts will be ordered by availability, with green available contacts at the top, followed by busy contacts, whose icons are displayed in red. At the bottom come offline or invisible contacts, displayed in grey. Available or busy contacts can either have a camera icon or a circle icon.

Video chat feature

Clicking on the name of a user with the video chat icon will bring up a chat window. At the top of the window, a bar displays the user's name and status as well as the window controls. Below this, a second menu bar shows additional commands. Clicking on the right-hand "More" button will open a menu of commands. The bottom of these is "Start video chat." If both users have the video chat plugin installed, they can talk face-to-face in the chat window using this command.

Installing video chat

Users who are unable to start or receive video chats probably do not have the video chat plugin installed. The plugin can be downloaded from the link in the Resources section. Video chat will run on most modern operating systems, although users of early versions of Windows XP may experience some difficulty.

Google Hangout

Another camera-shaped icon in Google Chat can be found on the left of the lower menu bar in the chat window. This icon depicts a camera within a comic-style word balloon. Clicking this icon will create a Hangout. Google Hangout is a multi-party video chat function with a number of additional features, such as the ability to share Youtube videos or desktop screenshots with other users. A Hangout will start in a separate window and appear as a notification on a user's Google+ feed. Full use of all Hangout features requires a Google+ account.

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