Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Google Talk?

According to the L.A. Times, Google is planning to announce an instant messaging/voice over IP application as early as tomorrow:
According to a person who has seen the service, Google plans to let users chat using more than just their keyboards. Like similar programs from competitors, Google Talk also will let computer users with a headset have voice conversations with other computer users with headsets, this person said.

As I've said previously, Skype will have a hard time competing if the big boys get into Internet telephones, and it sounds like one of the biggest boys around is moving in. But I wouldn't start planning Skype's funeral right away. Google has a mixed record when it comes to catching up. Its Hello photo-sharing service, for example, is nothing to write home about, and its customized home page is rudimentary. I'll also be disappointed if Google Talk just supports Windows, and not the Mac and Linux.

The best scenario would be if Google bases its product on open source, like Jabber (which I've heard suggested) or maybe by adopting something like Gizmo. The company has done it before, when it used the open-source VLC media player for its video service.

The second-best scenario is that Google adheres so well to existing standards, such as SIP, that the company won't have to create a different client for every operating system, you'll just be able to use existing ones.

[Update: It's out already. Download squad has a review. It's based on Jabber, so that means it may be best scenario #1. I'm using it now with Gaim on Linux. The voice calls, of course, don't work with anything but Google's own client, just on Windows, but the company says it's aiming for interoperability with other voice clients. Colour me initially impressed.]

[Update2: You can get it here. Instructions for setting up Gaim and other clients here.]

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