Taking another bold move into Skype‘s territory, Google has announced the addition of voice and video chat to Gmail. Interestingly, audio and video chats are currently available only as an extension to the Google Talk feature within Google’s free webmail service, and not via its standalone Google Talk chat client application.
Since the new Gmail voice and video chat features are browser based, it works on both Mac and Windows systems, and in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Google’s own Chrome. I video chatted with Joe at Glazer’s, then my kids interviewed my friend John and his family in Mililani Mauka, and it worked without a hitch with my Mac’s built-in iSight camera.
The built-in picture-in-picture is a nice touch. Also, the echo cancellation was surprisingly good. I didn’t bother plugging in a headset, and the system did a good job sorting out what my kids and I were saying and what was being said by our neighbors, even though I was just using the built-in microphone and speaker on my laptop.
One downside to video (or audio) chats in Gmail is that they’re not recorded or archived. I rely quite a bit on Gmail’s automatic archiving and indexing of text chats, searching and referring back to conversations with coworkers and friends. Now if I don’t take notes, I might lose track of some of the best parts of our video or audio conversations.
Wanna chat? I’m “ryanozawa” on GTalk, Skype, AIM and Yahoo! Messenger.