Google gets competitors talking


25 Aug 2005

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In a move that will be watched with some trepidation by traditional telephony businesses, web search giant Google has announced it is further branching out from its core business by offering users internet telephony and messaging services.

Google Talk is a downloadable Windows application that will enable users of its Gmail service to talk to each other over the internet and exchange instant messages. In a statement the company said the service, which will initially be available to US users only, aimed to simplify instant communication across the web.

“We’re continually investing in areas where we can make technological change and we recognise the importance of efficient instant communications and information exchange,” said Georges Harik, director of product management at Google. “Google Talk further enriches our users’ communications experience, whether they choose to communicate via email, instant messaging or a call.”

Gmail users can download the application by visiting www.google.com/talk/. Once they download the program, they invite others to also avail of the service. Those invited to join will also receive a free Gmail account if they do not currently have one.

Google said the system was based on open standards, thus giving users “a choice in what applications they use for communication”. Users will be able to exchange instant messages using any client that does the same, including Trillian, Adium, iChat, GAIM, and Psi. The company also said it was committed to working with other service providers to create a “federation model” that enables users on any member network to talk to users on any other member network in a “secure and abuse-free manner”. The company is currently working with EarthLink to interoperate with its Vling communications service and with Sipphone on its Gizmo Project.

In order to drive usage of the service, Gmail – previously an invitation-only service – is being opened up to anyone living in the US who has a mobile phone. When users visit http://gmail.com and enter their mobile phone number, they will receive an invitation code via a text message, enabling them to open an account.

Google Talk is Google’s latest diversification away from its core search engine business. Its services now include Froogle (online comparison shopping), Picasa (photo sharing) as well as Gmail.

By Brian Skelly