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Google Launches Multiplatform, In-browser Voice and Video Chat

Groundbreaking web-based email was not sufficient. Embedded instant messaging was not enough. Google Talk voice chat was too “old-fashioned.” Never satisfied with the status quo, the wizards at Google have rolled out a new Voice and Video service and have made Mac users first-class citizens for the new feature.

As with the majority of their shiny new toys, Google Voice and Video is not exactly available to everyone just yet, but when it finally is, enabling it will only require the download and installation of a small plugin and a quick selection in the “Options” link under the chat sidebar in Google Mail. Yes, that’s correct. This will be a service available within your browser.

Utilizing open standards such as the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP), and H.264, Google has built a service that is open to any developer and ready to interoperate with any network, which is all part of their open communications philosophy. It is worth mentioning that Google also sees fit to install their background updater service with this new chat feature. Rest assured, however, that if either component causes any platform issues for you, just run the accompanying un-installer to remove the Google components from your hard drive (so keep that disk image at hand!).

Stored in /Library/Application Support/Google and /Library/Internet Plug-Ins, the plugin seems to be Intel-only but compatible with both Safari and Firefox. Once the feature has been rolled out to your account, just select the “Video & more” menu at the bottom of your Gmail chat window, and choose “Start video chat.” Video can be re-sized or made full-screen.

With the inclusion of video services, Google Talk is now a full-on competitor to iChat and perhaps even Skype. It may lack some of the UI finesse that Apple seems to have mastered and it does not appear to support a quad-stream chat window, but these features could most likely be easily met via a standalone application which is ripe for the making by some enterprising OS X developer.

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