2 Weeks ago, Google launched an instant-messaging program that allows text chat and computer-to-computer voice connections, a move that in my opinion will further highlight the search giant's increasing competition with Yahoo, Microsoft and America Online.
Google's IM service, titled Google Talk, resides in Beta and enables users to call or send instant messages to their "friends" for free--anytime, anywhere in the world. In addition to that, the program is linked to the Google's web-based e-mail program, Gmail, making email communication that much easier for its users.
When I first heard the rumors of this service a few months back, I thought to myself "How does Google plan to compete with the likes of MSN, Yahoo!, and AOL? How do they expect to go toe-to-toe, pound for pound with the already very popular and well-established instant messaging systems?" Nothing against Google, but aren't they a bit late to be entering this type of fight? Apparently not.
Jabber Open Source
Google launched their new chat program with authority, and as one might have predicted, a few surprises too. One advantage to using Google Talk is its ability to connect with users of competing services. The service is based on the Jabber open-source standard, which allows consumers to connect with other messaging systems that work with Jabber, such as Apple Computer's iChat, GAIM, Adium, Trillian Pro and Psi.
Very Basic Interface
I was able to test Google Talk these past few days and actually found it to be very basic... which can be good or bad depending on your IM expectations. I personally found it to be a very good thing. The messenger is free of advertisements (as of now anyway) and doesn't ask me to rate "buddies" based on their resemblance to famous people, like AOL does. It's just straight instant messaging and of course free voice chat.
Friend's Name Control
One other feature that I appreciate being included is the ability to control how friend's names appear. My friends are constantly changing their screen names and sometimes I find it difficult to remember who they are that week. This feature eliminates this problem. Now, regardless of which silly handle my friends and colleagues choose to be, I can list them as something that makes sense to me. For example, "Solid Snake" will now be "Karl Ribas."
While its still a little early to determine whether or not Google Talk will be the next big thing in Instant-Messaging, the service does pack a few worthwhile features that make it a true competitor for now.