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In what is probably a clear challenge to VOIP services such as Skype, Google has now introduced video and voice functionality to their Google Talk gadget inside Gmail.

gmail voice chat

However, some of you will NOT see it yet as Gmail is doing their usual and rolling it out slowly to users.   So some of you will have it and some of you won’t.   So if you don’t have it yet, don’t despair.   You will see it eventually!

This new feature is a really big deal because along with also being able to put Google gadgets in the Gmail sidebar, this means that your Gmail inbox is no longer just for email.   Your Gmail inbox is now the center of your entire working life.  I hesitate to use the phrase “nerve center” as it is over-used and a bit of a cliche but that is basically what it has now become.   Everything you need to work with is now sitting on your Gmail page :

You need to install a small plug-in which Google provides but right there, you see the first drawback. If you are working on different computers, you need to have the plugin installed on ALL of the computers for the video and voice chat to work. So if you are say in an internet cafe or on a computer where you don’t have the administrator rights then you won’t be able to use the video and voice features. Any feature that requires something installed is always going to have limited appeal and limited use.

You are also obviously going to need a webcam. Google “helpfully” gives you some suggestions (obviously they’ll get their commission if you follow their ideas!)


gmail video mail

Once you have the plug-in installed and you’ve plugged in the webcam, go to your Gmail settings, then the “chat” tab. You’ll now see a new section:

Make sure that the settings are correct and that your webcam is showing up.

If you now look at your GTalk inside Gmail, you’ll now see yourself with a little camera icon next to your name:

gmail chat status

If anyone sees that camera icon, they’ll know that you are able to speak to them via webcam inside Gmail’s GTalk and if you see cameras next to their name, you’ll know they can do the same.

Finally, here is Gmail’s official little YouTube video on the subject :


  1. venkat
    November 14, 2008 at 12:57 am

    It'a nice addition to Gmail ,all are talking it as anti-skype have you ever notice voice chat clarity is it similar to skype ,I want my privacy to be protected what I chat in Google's Video chat i don't want all these chat logs will be stored by Google. As mark said we can access all from Gmail itself isn't it nice.

  2. sean murray
    November 13, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    this is a great addition. The article doesnt mention that it doesnt work on Macs, which may be important to some......!

    As for providing a "challenge" to skype.....perhaps skype could surrender before play begins in this case? Given the fact their dumbing down of even the highest quality webcam images makes them come across looking like they were recorded using a VIC-20 , in high color mode.

    It is a shame this feature wasnt born with "send a video email" functionality. It wont take long.

    • Mark O'Neill
      November 14, 2008 at 6:39 am

      I have to disagree with you about Skype. Their webcam images are extremely good and they get better with every new software release! They are a serious contender to Google's GTalk now and the two of them are going to go at each other.

      As for the "send a video email", that won't be long in coming. Then services like Eyejot will bite the dust.

  3. DataStronghold
    November 13, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Skype nor Yahoo have ever actually published application or studies that have used it. Nor have have there ever been reports that they have. I am sure if we have heard news stories that they were using the data in that manner, we would be up in arms as well, much in the same way we are with Google.

  4. Alfred Westerveld
    November 13, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Too bad linux is not supported .....

  5. DataStronghold
    November 13, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    So how long is it before Google starts compiling all of your chat and voice logs? They would of course disguise it in a very pretty box, much in the same way they did with the flue trends. I worry that people are becoming so distracted by all of the shiny new services Google is offering and forgetting the core purpose of Google, which is data aggregation.

    • Mark O'Neill
      November 13, 2008 at 4:34 pm

      What makes you think that Skype and all the other VOIP services perhaps aren't doing the same thing to their users? Why is it that Google always solely gets hit over the head with the paranoia stick?

      You know, if Yahoo did a feature like this or Microsoft, I bet we wouldn't be hearing grumblings like this. But as soon as GOOGLE brings this out, instantly we hear "DON'T USE IT! BIG BROTHER IS MONITORING YOU!"


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