GoogleTalk IM service launches

As widely rumoured this week, Google has launched a beta version of its first ‘communications’ product GoogleTalk, a combined instant messaging and VoIP service.

GoogleTalk is a free service for Windows based machines. It does not currently carry any advertising although this might change in the future. Login is currently via a GMail username and password only although Google’s mail service is now freely available. Once connected, users can chat either through text via IM or by voice via VoIP.

The interface is clean and lacks a lot of the clutter of the more established services. However, it offers the basic functions of buddy lists, which can include the contact list from your GMail account, and blocking unwelcome messages and visibility to other GoogleTalk users.

At the same time, it also lacks some of the frills such as emoticons and sound effects that have sprouted among the major services in the past couple of years. Google says it plans to add extra ‘cool features’ as the service develops.

The IM elements are based on the open sourceJabber project. Although this allows Google to say that users can exchange messages with other services, there are not many that most people will have heard of, such as Trillian, GAIM, iChat, Adium, and Psi who also use the XMPP protocol on which GoogleTalk is based

The major services from Yahoo, MSN and AOL are conspicuously absent from the list. Similarly, it would have been nice if the VoIP element could have worked with the popular Skype service.

Google Talk is available as a 900K download for Windows 2000 and above from the Google site. No Mac or Linux version is available yet but Google says that versions for those platforms should be arriving soon.

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