Feature Friday: Personal Hangouts

I have had a personal conference calling bridge number since the mid 90s. I know the number by heart. I give it out all the time via email, text, and kik. It does not require a participant code. When I type my host code, we are all connected. I have not found a better model for voice conference calls in the almost twenty years I have been using this number.

But more and more I am doing hangouts instead of calls. And I want the same experience for hangouts. It used to be possible to get a "static URL" for a Google Hangout but this feature was dropped at some point. You can get a permalink for an event but it ends on the date of the event.

What I'd like to do is get a permalink for a Google Hangout that is mine and always mine. Then I will shorten it via the USV link shortener and I can pass it out via email, text, kik, etc and Hangouts will become as easy for me as conference calls have been for the past twenty years.

I am curious if anyone has figured out a way to make this happen.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Gabriel

    Can’t you make an event which starts today and finishes in 2050?

  2. Jackson Lindauer

    Hey Fred,I use the solution Gabriel touched on. I have a recurring event titled “Hangout” with a “Never” end date. You add Google+ Hangout within the event and save.Grab the Hangout link from your calendar, then use the USV link shortener and share with anyone you want. Selecting “Public” under Circles for the Hangout allows anyone to join that has the link.I agree, though, it seems like a functionality Google can/should solve for.

    1. fredwilson

      great. Thats exactly what we will do

      1. Richard

        “Allowing anyone to join”, while this will work, it doesn’t seem very secure? Just make sure you change the setting while in a hangout.

      2. Startup Tech Guy

        Hey Fred, the url experience you want is the backbone of Speek

        1. Farhan Abbasi

          Except Speek doesn’t do video and Fred is asking for a video solution. Love Speek for calls though.

    2. Daniel Friedman

      You need to be careful with this solution though – the hangout URL itself does change (we started getting “This party is over” after a few uses). The URL on the calendar invite doesn’t change though (it’s a forwarding link). Grab the link from your calendar and you’ll be all set.See this thread with the hangouts VP of eng for more info: https://plus.google.com/+Ch

    3. Danny Boice

      That would work but seems like a lot of unnecessary extra effort

  3. William Mougayar

    It strikes me like something that Google will have to do. On the other hand, I’ve been getting on a lot of Join.me conferences lately, and they have a fixed URL syntax.

    1. Danny Boice

      William – they still force you to dial-in via phone number and PIN for the audio portion which doesn’t solve the “on the go” use case.Speek makes it a single button click from any device anywhere to join an audio conference call. You can join via URL or you can use native mobile devices or even SMS to join a conference call without ever dialing a phone number and PIN.

  4. John Revay

    Fred Curious, when do you use the bridge vs HangoutBridge for non web calls?

    1. fredwilson

      Bridge when people aren’t near a computer and don’t have hangouts on their phone

  5. pointsnfigures

    How is Google Hangout vs Skype? I tried to do a Skype thing the other day and kept getting dropped.

    1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      I hardly use skype anymore and generally find hangout to be much better. Also, their mobile app sometimes performs better than the web app

    2. awaldstein

      I use it multiple times a week and have few issues. For point to point, still my go to probably habitFor multi-point Hangouts is what most people loop me into.

    3. Brad Dickason

      We have four offices at Shapeways (Netherlands, LIC, Manhattan, Seattle) and recently switched all conversations to Hangouts due to Skype’s inability to handle low-latency calls. We’ve been having issues with our Time Warner connection at one of our offices (another issue which deserves it’s own rant blog post) and have had tons of meetings ruined when Skype would drop or become unusable. Hangouts seems much better in these situations so far.

    4. William Mougayar

      Skype has a new update apparently today solving some issues.Curious are you still seeing GTM usage in larger corporations? They dropped their pricing to $19 entry level to compete with the newer startups. So many companies in the conference market.

    5. fredwilson

      Wayyyyyyy better

  6. James O'Connor

    Andrew Parker wrote about this exact thing with a hacked solution earlier this year: http://thegongshow.tumblr.c

    1. fredwilson

      Ah yes. Forgot about that. Andrew has always been way ahead of me

    2. Nicholas Molnar

      We’ve been using this at Wantering for the past few months and it works like a charm.

  7. Eric Friedman

    I have the same question. What service do you use for the conference line? I was thinking about using twilio to make something similar but the costs for all callers is prohibitive from using my own line that I have with a simple code.

    1. fredwilson

      I forget what they call themselves now. The company behind the service has been sold a bunch of times

  8. btrautsc

    very ironic topic. just a few weeks ago we were ranting about how our “startup” uses bridge lines all of the time. when I worked at HP i thought it was such an old crappie system – but like email, it just works.we’ve started to use hangouts some, but most of our demos are much better with phone + join.me for screens.

    1. William Mougayar

      ex-HP here too.

      1. btrautsc

        Good man!

  9. Tereza

    Lync in Outlook can do this.

    1. fredwilson

      I dont know anyone who uses outlookIts a big company product nowAll the new companies use google apps

      1. btrautsc

        It is amazing how quickly Google apps will seep into larger co’s. We’ve dealt with multiple many 100’s of employee companies recently who use gmail/ apps exclusively.any co that is providing cell phones just has such an easier time managing

        1. awaldstein

          My experience as well.

    2. awaldstein

      What’s Outlook?

      1. JamesHRH

        Its the thing that my Fortune 10 executive spouse uses to run her life.Little respect to the CF its produced in the last 30 years please.

        1. awaldstein

          Not using Outlook is one of life’s small pleasures.

          1. JamesHRH

            I am deep inside the Apple.What I do not get exposed to s the Google Apps revolution – hear a lot about (from people other than Fred too) – but don’t use it.I thought nobody used Hangouts?

          2. awaldstein

            I use Google docs and Asana every single day.BTW–family members in middle school in midwest us Google Docs for all school assignments. They have never heard of Microsoft.

          3. karen_e

            Lucky you. {Wistful expression.}

      2. Nick Ambrose

        Something I am sadly forced to use here @ “the office” every day 🙁 and something that really hasn’t improved since I last used it in 2004 quite honestly.What a pile of dreckIf i see “Your connection to the Outlook server has been lost” one more time for absolutely no reason …..

      3. John Revay

        Hi Arnold, MY HP/PC/Vista died a few weeks ago, I switched to a MAC.What is mail client of choice – Gmail/web – or do you use the mac os mail client – pulling from gmail and or pop accounts?

        1. awaldstein

          Mac mail pulling from gmail is what works for me.

          1. awaldstein

            Thnx…what I have works but could certainly be better.

          2. John Revay

            Thank you, I will check that out

          3. John Revay

            I will give that a Try, for some reason – I still like having a client.

          4. LE

            See my comment above re: thunderbird and quick text pro extension.If you are doing any selling, marketing or have the same type of info you give to customers, clients or need to change sigs even it is really a big help. You have no idea of the increase in productivity you can get from that. There are other ways to do this but with qtp you can do it really quickly from a pull down menu in the email screen.Attached shows only one pull down menu created. I have some of these with 20 different text packages. You can also populate variables like the person’s name (grabbed from the email you received) and do all sorts of things.Like:Hi [firstname]Thanks for your order of [some product]We will ship in 1 day ..[insert reply of particular csr that is replying]… and so forth.

          5. awaldstein

            Looks useful, thanks.

        2. LE

          Thunderbird. (Mozilla.org).With thunderbird you can use quick text pro http://extensions.hesslow.s… you can’t even imagine what a time saver that is in terms of replies and auto typing rote information.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Note the caps.

      4. jason wright

        you know, its that thing from that company started by that guy, the one who got the launchpad deal with IBM because his mother knew the CEO.

  10. Kate Huyett

    The best tool I’ve found lately for conference call solution is an app called Speek. It’s a dedicated URL that people can go to, enter their phone number and it calls you (no entering a stupid sixteen digit code to enter. It is always on and link can be shared via email, text etc. also if URL is confusing for people they provide you with an old school conference dial in that ends up in same place.

    1. Brandon G. Donnelly

      Speek looks great. Thanks!

  11. BrandonPindulic

    Hi Fred,Not sure about the GH permalink, but I have heard good things about Speek (Speek.com) which allows for easy conference calls and does not require a bulky pin.

  12. Joh Bracken

    Fred, I’m the CEO of Speek and we couldn’t agree more with you. The personal URL makes sharing and joining calls dead simple. Our service has grown quickly based on the pain point you mentioned. We are the #1 conf calling service on the market using this approach and we are growing quickly.

    1. JamesHRH

      Ok. I signed up.@ 11:45 today I’ll do a call with any AVCer that wants. I only have 15 minutes & then I have to be on another call.Lets limit it to me & 6 others.I will give Joh a review after lunch.

      1. bsoist

        I’d love to join, but I’ll be on another call at that point. I am definitely going to try Speek, and I’ve love to see hear your thoughts on it after the call.

      2. Virginia

        I’ll join in. I’m from Speek and I lead many of our demos. What link did you want to jump on? Btw, basic links support up to 5 people for free. If you all want to hop on mine at 11:45 its: speek.com/speekout and it’s a Pro link so we can have unlimited callers.

      3. Startup Tech Guy

        whats your speek url?

        1. Virginia

          I’ll be on speek.com/speekout if anyone wants to jump on now 🙂

      4. ShanaC

        damn, i missed it.

      5. Virginia

        Thanks to everyone who joined us at 1145! I even got to chat with a gentleman in India and it was crystal clear. I’m going to hop off my link now, but if anyone would like a demo or a chat, please reach out to me: [email protected]

        1. Saurabh Hooda

          I was the one from India:) I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by voice clarity. Thanks for your time.

      6. JamesHRH

        Argh – I never saw the Disqus replies.I saw that I had a new Disqus follower, but all the other replies were nested (stupid Apple Mail!).I thought it was a no go. My apologies.

        1. Danny Boice

          Hey James – feel free to shoot us a note at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to schedule another demo call for anyone interested. Thanks!

    2. Matt Zagaja

      Interesting to learn about Speek. I have used something similar called Uberconference in the past.

    3. Andrew Thompson

      I want to echo Jon’s comments. Speek is super simple to use and, at least in my experience, is way more versatile than a Google Hangout. The personalized URL approach is awesome.

    4. ShanaC

      what about for non-calls (like hangouts)

    5. jason wright

      that looks suspiciously like an iphone on your homepage.

      1. Joh Bracken

        Yep, we support multiple platforms and mobile is very important to our business. You should check out our mobile apps as many of our users use them exclusively.

        1. jason wright

          you’re making all the right moves.

    6. ResPres

      I couldn’t agree more, I love the ease of the custom URL, but the business people I often set up call with find the phone and code that comes with it less “disruptive” to how they think today. 🙂

    7. Peter Clark

      I use Speek. It’s a great idea. Unfortunately at least 30% of the time we have to abandon using it because the call quality is so bad.

    8. Jeff Turner

      Joh, I agree. Having the personal URL is a convenience, but I’ve experienced some pushback from business people when I send it. The dial-in number and code is less “disruptive” for them. 🙂

      1. Joh Bracken

        We actually provide a dedicated phone/pin with each account and you can use that for your calls. I understand there is a comfort factor with the phone/pin and we actually bring that forward as an option on the Speek link page so participants have that option. Thanks for the feedback and we will continue to work on making this frictionless for customers.

    9. LE

      I happen to be in the domain business and know that you’ve probably considered at some point getting speak.comLet me know if you need assistance with that acquisition.I’ve done business with the owner of that domain and know a bit about how they deal.

    10. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      Joh, I never heard about Speek before but it is impossible to read the other comments on this page without running into another one of Speek’s fan!! So I will definitely be trying the product. Also, you maybe interested in getting your company nominated for the ‘best advocate marketing awards – BAMMIES’. It is an award given to innovative B2B companies that have demonstrated great examples of using their advocates in promoting their product. There are 10 categories and I think Speek would be an ideal fit for ‘Advocate Unite category’. The link to apply is influitive.com/bammies (FYI. I work for company handing the awards so don’t hesitate to reach out to me for questions).

  13. Stewart Allen

    Fred, have you heard of Speek (speek.com) ? It gives you a dedicated (personalizable) url and dead simple integration for mobile and in-browser participants as well as call metrics, historical and other cool data. It’s just as easy to add traditional phone line participants. I love it.

    1. kenberger

      re giving phone participants a phone number to call, I don’t immediately see that mentioned in my quick glance at their site, but would say that this is a critical feature, if it’s not a universal platform like google or skype (hey- maybe Kik will join that circle too some day). I confcall w/ too many people who aren’t existing contacts and I need to give them simple phone numbers.I really like Turbobridge (voice only, no video yet). An intriguing feature is that they support HDVoice, so I can take advantage of that great sound quality with our onsip lines.

  14. Jackson Lindauer

    @disqus_8QnvFwcv25:disqus thanks for the edit!

  15. falicon

    So…how’s that cutting Google out of owning your life going? 🙂

    1. Dale Allyn


  16. Joe Corbett

    Speek, all the way across the sky. I like anything that is “new” and phone numbers are old. The idea of using just a URL to collaborate is what a lot of us nerds have been waiting for.

  17. Dominick Fuccillo

    I use speek twice a week at a minimum. Great mobile experience. If i am on a group text I can just send out the link via text and get everyone on a call. Big fan as well.

  18. Konrad

    What a pain! You should definitely try Speek. Speek allows for a personal and dedicated link that is your name. It also has mobile apps, VoIP option in the browser, and dial-ins. You can actually text the Speek username to Speek and you get an immediate call back into the bridge. People can join from any device, so not the same friction as a Hangouts or something (and never have to memorize a dial-in and PIN again).

  19. gregarnette

    Here is a blog post I wrote recently listing the steps to associate a persistent Google Hangout URL to a friendly DNS name.The goal is to create “drop-in” virtual conference rooms with Google+ Hangouts.http://www.gregarnette.com/…The basic premise is to use HTTP Redirect to connect a friendly DNS name to a Hangouts URL.Eliminates all the “ceremony” to get a virtual meeting started.

    1. LE

      A nice writeup. But I think you are going to lose people at this part:2. Create a DNS zone and use HTTP Redirect to connect the DNS name to the URLWhy mess with zones?For approx. $12 you can just register a new domain name and have it redirect to wherever you want. Much easier than having someone make a dns change. Unless of course you manage the domain and are familiar with changing dns or with managing a zone. Most people aren’t. And their time is better spent paying to skip that step. And if they knew about that they would already come to that conclusion w/o the need for instructions in many cases.

      1. Timothy Meade

        LE,I’m curious, do you know of a service that will host a static custom landing page and will be active as soon as a CNAME or A record is set up on a new domain.Also something that supports unlimited wildcard email forwarding.

        1. LE

          Are you talking about for free or a paid?What you are asking about you can generally get with any service that sells you a vps using either plesk or cpanel, webmin etc.You would pre setup the domain and landing page using the (say) plesk panel. Then you can register the domain. When the dns starts to resolve the page will come up assuming you’ve done the right things that you need to.wildcard email isn’t recommended because you will be getting all the obvious spam such as Info@ joe@ jane@ etc. But it can be done.There may be someone doing this for free. It’s not a bad idea as a potential service.

          1. Timothy Meade

            Right, I know how to set this up for myself. I have a CPanel server right now because I’m working on another project which requires integrating with web hosting companies using the cpanel API.I agree about the wildcard email. over the longer term it would make sense to have a list of aliases to forward, but setting up a domain with wildcard MX could be useful when just getting started. I was using Google Apps but now that it is pay it doesn’t work for my use case. (I would still use it if I had multiple people that needed email accounts.)And yes, that is exactly what I was thinking. I was wondering if it would be something somebody with a lot of domains would use to reduce the amount of time required to set each one up. (Assuming they didn’t just want to use Adwords for Domains with a generic landing page.)I know there are static hosting services out there but most of them seem to be designed for people comfortable with Git that could just as easily set something up themselves.

          2. LE

            People with lots of domains (people in the domain business) want them pointed to parked pages so they can get click income). The parked pages also collect sales leads as well.Otoh non domain people and/or even people in startup land would have a use (like launchrock type service).Would take plenty of money and infrastructure to give it away for free though because of the edge cases where people had a lot of activity.

          3. Timothy Meade

            Right, custom parking pages, PPC, content marketing (outbrain, Disqus Promoted, etc.)Everything would be preconfigured so that when it encountered a new vhost configured it would build a keyword list and start populating the pages.As for email, there are quite a few outgoing MX services now, Mailgun, SendGrid, etc., that can handle quite a bit of traffic. They could be used to outsource the incoming MX for larger accounts.

          4. LE

            My last comment about money and infrastructure relates to email not a static page which is much easier to do as it’s only 1 static page and most people aren’t going to get much traffic vs. email which can be problematic.

  20. jonathan_firestone

    Fred, others here have mentioned Speek. I’ll be up front and let you know that at one time I worked with the Speek team, and had a brief hand at designing the experience. That said, I no longer have any business-related connection with the company, but I still use the product. One of my tasks during design of the product is naturally to evaluate other competitive products. I can tell you that I haven’t found any other company that does what Speek does, even to this day. It’s no wonder they’ve had success with this, John Bracken and Danny Boice knew what they were doing when they put together this fantastic solution. The company is a great example of the Lean Startup philosophy, and they’ll be doing one thing right after another and then another, and then another as new services are added — but right now, they’ve got the audio conferencing solution down. They are #1, for all the right reasons. Try it out, you’ll be glad you did.

  21. Startup Tech Guy

    Fred I’m an early adopter of Speek, in fact my speek url is http://speek.com/kyle it’s super easy to use and has all the features that most big, expensive enterprise conference calling solutions have, but it’s much simpler. When it’s time for a conference call people just use that URL above when it’s time and they’re grouped together for me there’s no reason to remember a call in number like (212)555-7316 and then a pin number 84394579933 which is impossible to do in the car. NOTHING will stop hard working entrepreneurs and investors from actually working on the phone in the car but at least Speek makes it easier, and safer. In fact my hometown homey Ed Norton loves Speek

    1. Virginia

      Hey Kyle- If you’re joining from the car a lot you should definitely try joining with our smartphone app or try text to join. Just text “kyle” to 415-815-6000. Your phone will ring and conference you in.

  22. Frank Garland

    I started using Speek early this year and love it. Every time I invite new people to join me on a Speek call they are impressed and usually sign up. As soon as I started reading Fred’s post I thought …. you gotta try Speek.

  23. Farhan Abbasi

    What Fred is asking for is a video conference solution. Speek is call only.

    1. Farhan Abbasi

      Just tried BigBlueButton.org and it worked with video and sound. Not account needed. Also allowed desktop sharing. Allows links. Tried using Google Hangout but that forced people create account. We got a winner.

  24. Hilina KB

    I conduct all my conference calls using Speek and couldn’t be happier with the simplicity of the service. I have used Uber conferences, google hangout and info.me in the past. In terms of user experience and ease of use speek is my number one choice!

  25. Robert Rogers

    My company uses speek as well. I probably use it 2 or 3 times a week and I have never had any problems with it…it’s a great service.

  26. Salt Shaker

    This is like a (really good) infomercial 🙂

  27. lkthrock

    I’m a huge Speek fan too. My personalized URL is the same as my Twitter, Instagram, etc., which makes it very easy for people to remember. The more I use it, the more looking up dial-in numbers and pin codes for other calls frustrates me.

  28. I Hate Trolls

    A buddy of mine showed me how Speek asked everyone on Facebook to write on this post so that Fred Wilson knows who they are. You kidding Speek? Yes I’m sure he knows who you are by now and finds your trolling annoying.We all know you took on emergency funding in your latest bridge round. We also all know this is a great way to promote your company for free. But you’re just making yourself look self-entitled.The only thing that Fred Wilson should know is what Glen Hellman wrote in his post: http://drivenforward.com/bl…Yes everyone in DC startupland knows Speek so it’s easy for you to ask your friends on Facebook to comment on this. That’s because Speek spends all of their time in DC startupland gloating in their popularity instead of building a business. Look at them trolling Glen Hellman’s blog post too.You get an A+ in smoke and mirrors and an F- in revenue. My kid makes more selling lemonade to Potomac moms.You can’t troll your way into making me use Speek no matter how much you promote yourself with kittens and fairy dust.

    1. Brian Anerson

      For someone that hates trolling, you sure are good at it ;)Also, if you’re going to judge a startup on revenue only, I guess you think Instagram and Snapchat are worthless too?

      1. Rashad Moore

        Snapchat and Instagram are demonstrably not worthless but neither have built sustainable businesses either.

    2. Matt Zagaja

      It may look silly but this is not a losing thing for AVC. The most interesting people from the Speek community will probably look around and stay, and maybe become valuable contributors here. The less interesting people that are just driving by will not be around for tomorrows post.

      1. Rashad Moore

        I followed the link from the Speek DC Tech post… I think I’ll stick around. Maybe that makes me interesting, or maybe not… only time will tell 🙂

    3. Glen Hellman

      Friend of mine just pointed me to this post. Want to be clear that while the poster, “I Hate Trolls,” sounds like Mr Cranky, he’s not Mr Cranky. I’d give Speek an A+ in mobilizing their fan base and generating buzz.I’m not however a fan of the business model and hate the market. Winning a market and being the best company to give away service at no cost was not a business plan that had me opening my investment wallet or my conference calling wallet.I do love free product as a user. Just don’t like free product that depends on one little easy to duplicate feature to get me to switch my business calls to an unproven, risky startup when there are so many other alternatives as an investment thesis.Lastly, yes, I noticed that Speek was out begging for DC Tech people to comment here, just like they have regularly hacked and mobilize the rabid DC Home Team Fans to vote in other meaningless “Hottest Company” popularity contests..This was a great idea to expand past the DC base! Work the Fred Crowd. Although startups wouldn’t be my first market segment since acquisition costs are high, failure rates resulting in churn are high, and budget is low. I’d be trolling in SMB and Enterprise blogs which are more stable, bigger budgets, more need, and less price sensitive.But that’s just me and I’m Cranky.

  29. Pete Griffiths

    Impressed by Speek.

  30. Craig Walker

    Hey Fred, just saw this. At UberConference, we totally agree with you, which is why we give you a personal URL to see everybody on your call as well as a dedicated phone number that everybody can call into without the need of a PIN. It combines the best of both worlds as you can just give out the phone number and URL to anybody and can join from anywhere using WebRTC through the browser or dialing in from any phone. Also, since not everybody is available via video for Hangouts (ie, traveling, in car, etc.) using UberConference gives you all the benefits of seeing and knowing who’s on the call, combined with a traditional, pain free way to join a conference call from a phone.Stay tuned for even more news that will solve your problem even better;)

    1. Matt Zagaja

      I have used and liked the Uberconference product in the past and was impressed. However I want to ask why doesn’t the HD audio option work in Safari? Chrome is an awful experience on Apple laptops unless you want to hear your fans taking off like a 747 all the time.

      1. Vincent Paquet

        Matt: Safari does not support WebRTC, Chrome does. WebRTC is a much sleeker experience as it does not require any download, Apple laptops actually have great echo cancellation, allowing anyone to use them without a headset. Give it a try.

    1. thomasknoll

      Wow… that was quite a few hoops to jump through to get it setup. But, it works perfectly now that it is. Thank you, @67ba37b6c73770251108ab1e9b0ab847:disqus!

      1. thomasknoll

        Damn, looks like I spoke too soon. Currently, it only allows people with email addresses *on* the domain to join the hangout (by going to the URL… people outside the org can be invited, but they can’t just join). Still digging for a work around on these settings…

  31. Rocky

    For video, audio and screen sharing we use zoom.us. It has personal id, room id and recurring meeting id. Very cool app and goes up to 25 people and is free. I don’t work for them. I use it and recommend it.

  32. Jason Brown

    Speek is our primary tool for making conference calls at our office. Easy to use and reliable for us.

  33. S3

    So funny – I was going to tout Speek as well…but it seems like others have saved me the time. Clear sound, straightforward app, great customer service. It’s the way to go for conference calling.

  34. Vincent Paquet

    Fred: I’m the VP product at UberConference. so it seems like you have a phone number for audio calls and a hangout when people are on their computer. Why not use the same product for both? UberConference gives you a dedicated number AND a dedicated URL. Better yet neither you nor your participants will need a pin to join.

    1. Glen Hellman

      Vincent have you asked your social network supporters to comment on this blog yet? Based on the comments here, I’d have to say that Speek is about 200X better than Uber? Now are they better at buzz or service, I can’t answer that.

  35. Guest

    So Fred, I’d be interested in this, based on the comments here? How many of the Speek recommendations came from DC? What percentage? Wondering how effective it is for a company to go to their social networks to drive traffic and recommendations to a blog site?