Google just announced a range of updates to Google+ video hangouts, declaring its intention to move social networking "beyond the status update." Any conversation on Google+ can now "go live," with a "Hangout" button underneath every post. Clicking 'Hangout' starts a video chat with everyone involved in the thread. This feature will work through Google+ Messenger in upcoming versions of the native Android and iPhone apps.

The On Air hangouts that have allowed public figures like the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu to broadcast live to the world are becoming available to more celebrities and G+ users with large followings, and it's becoming a self-service feature, instead of one managed by Google. It's also being integrated into YouTube, so a recorded version gets uploaded to the broadcaster's YouTube account.

The right sidebar of Google+ will now display up to three live hangouts users can join, and invitations to hangouts will now trigger push notifications on mobile devices. Earlier this month, Google added free phone conferencing to hangouts, extending the reach of the live chat to anyone with a phone. Calls in the U.S. and Canada are free, and international rates are reasonable.

You can see more examples of the new features in action on the Google blog.