Google Rolls out Gmail Voice and Video Chat…Slowly…

Gmail voice and video chat

Google just launched video and voice chat today for both PC and Mac. My first reaction? That is so cool.

The only problem is the announcement went out before they had actually activated many accounts. Including mine. Luckily, I had the email address of the Google contact who sent out the announcement, and he spent some time troubleshooting with me. First order of business? Getting my email account activated as well as that of my initial Gmail voice and video chat guinea pig, Scott from Alaska HDTV (@alaskapodshow on Twitter).

After about an hour, Scott still could not see the video options in his Gmail chat box. While he and I continued to restart browsers and compare notes, I received a text chat message from my friend Kris, a multimedia producer and documentary filmmaker in Brooklyn (@krisbritt on Twitter). She had seen my Tweets about my attempts to test out the new Gmail voice and video chat.

I invited her to video chat and within moments and after just a few rings, the video chat window opened, and there was Kris. The picture was clear, the sound was clear.

Right away I thought “This is much better than Skype.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love Skype, but it can fizzle and pop now and then.  WWD blogger Samuel Dean also tested Gmail voice and video chat and points out that it falls short compared to Skype because it doesn’t connect calls to landlines and doesn’t offer voice mail. It does, however, allow you to record a video chat. Ah, the possibilities!

Right away, Kris echoed my feelings that Gmail voice and video chat is convenient and a great addition to the Google suite of tools – perfect, for example, to use while reviewing a Google Doc with someone else. Having video and voice chat within Gmail also means you’ll get more functionality with less open applications and windows.

Gmail voice and video chat

Some quick things to know before you dash off to download the video chat add-on for your browser:

1. Your account must be activated by Google for video, and this could take a few more days.

2. Your chat friend must have Gmail voice and video chat add-on installed for it to work. Otherwise they will be directed to the download page for the add-on.

3. You can tell if a friend is video-chat enabled by a little video camera icon to the left of their name on the contacts Chat List in your Gmail account.

4. You can invite someone to video chat with the Video Options button at the bottom of the chat box.

5. You can pop out the video into it’s own window and move it around as well as open it to full screen.

One possible software conflict? The latest Flash player may interfere with the proper installation of the video add-on (this is just a guess from Scott who eventually switched computers and was able to video chat immediately).

Troubleshooting tips? Make sure your browser is closed before you install the add-on. Then you may have to restart your browser a few times until it takes. Just something anecdotal. Probably not in the manual.

Have long did it take to get Gmail voice and video chat to work for you? What do you think you’ll use it for?