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Google Talk Review

Google Talk around the network:

Google Talk: buddy listGoogle Talk, Google's long-expected entry into the IM and VoIP market, has arrived. As predicted, Google Talk is a full-fledged IM client based on the open Jabber protocol with VoIP thrown in for good measure.

Update: The Google Talk web site has gone live and you can now download Google Talk for Windows.

Here's a quick run-down of what Google Talk has to offer: Basic IM capabilities, high-quality and easy to use VoIP, complete integration with Gmail, and a simple, ads-free interface. Read on for our preliminary review and a glimpse into Google Talk's future.

The download is tiny (about 900k) and the install is so quick and easy you don't even realize it's finished yet. You sign in with your Gmail account and are immediately presented with your (momentarily empty) buddy list. There's an Add Friend button, a "Search all contacts" field which searches both your Google Talk and Gmail contacts, and a drop-down under your name that lets you set your available/unavailable status and messages. There's also an Inbox button which takes you to Gmail, plus Help and Settings.

Google Talk: IM window

Clicking on a friend in your buddy list will open an IM window for that person, and clicking on the phone icon to the right of their name will start a voice session. The buddy list allows you to rename contacts and tweak other settings, like whether Gmail-only contacts are shown. When you have multiple IM windows open, they show up in a neat sliding interface which you can dock to the buddy list, "roll up," or tear away. The whole affair is the picture of simplicity and intuitiveness we've come to expect of Google, and is downright attractive to boot.

Google Talk: settings

According to our friends at Google, there's a lot in store for Google Talk. Google is keenly interested in keeping the protocol open, and in fact you can access Google Talk's servers with any Jabber-compatible client like Trillian, Gaim, Adium X, and iChat. (If you have one of these, I'm told you can connect using server and port 5222.)  Google tells us that SIP support is coming soon and are in talks with Skype, AOL, and Yahoo! concerning interoperability.

Another big feature they're working on is "joint search," which would allow two or more Google Talk buddies using Google and surfing the web together. This would be a natural segue to the fabled Google Browser, but there is as yet no confirmation from Google.

Google also tells us that they don't yet have solid plans on making money with the service, but plan on using it to drive users to Gmail.

Google Talk: the whole shebang