Google Talk arrives

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We look at Google’s long-awaited instant messaging client “Google Talk”.

A big move by Google is its long-awaited instant messaging client – a direct competitor to Yahoo and Microsoft. IM offerings from these two companies and from others don’t interact with each other resulting in a mix of technologies and incompatible systems. All the players have said the right things about an Internet-wide IM standard but action has been notably lacking. Google has cleverly broken through the impasse over a global instant messaging standard by adopting the XMPP standard for IM and using the open source Jabber system to be its IM client.

The Google Talk download is available from It is in ‘beta test’ but is publicly available, free and works quite well.

Google has been refreshingly open about providing links to other compatible IM clients for Windows and other operating systems not supported by Google itself. The important voice features, though, seem only to be available between Google Talk users.

As well as text instant messaging you can talk for free with other Google Talk users. It is likely that Google will introduce a telephone VoIP service like that from Skype in the future. There is much talk (no pun intended) about the VoIP possibilities of Google Talk, but for the moment it is limited to computer-to-computer links and those only between Google Talk users (none of the third-party clients support voice yet). However, the system uses openly available standards so connection to the phone system can’t be far away – either from Google itself or some enterprising company.

VoIP is great. Office Watch makes big use of it for long-distance and especially international calls. The call quality is usually good and the prices cheap. We’re not so convinced about the idea of using VoIP for all calls and have no intention of ditching our normal phone service. But for the more costly calls VoIP is an economical alternative.



Google has a list of third-party IM programs that will work with Google Talk and provides setup instructions for each program.

We’ve tried iChat (which comes with Mac OS X) and iMov (for Pocket PC) and they both log in to Google Talk nicely.

Google Talk has been running only a short time but it’s already interesting to see people connecting who had previously been separated by operating system or a dislike of the Microsoft or Yahoo clients. Google Talk opens up the field to choose the IM program you prefer.

On the Jabber site there’s a list of all the Jabber clients which shows the range of operating systems already available – Google Talk for Apple Newton anyone?

You need a Google Gmail account to use Google Talk – this login integrates with other logins for Google products. In practice this means having a Gmail account.

Gmail is still an officially ‘closed’ system with new accounts mostly only available by invitation from an existing users. As Google releases new products this is becoming more of a frustration for people.

However according to Google “When you invite a friend who doesn’t already have a Gmail account to try Google Talk, he or she will also receive a Gmail invitation.”. So go ahead and invite people to use
Google Talk and they’ll get a Gmail invitation.


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