Google Talking Up Gmail With Chat
New chat features for Gmail should begin rolling out to its users over the next few weeks, as Google tightens the integration between its Talk and Gmail services.
Pulling up the main Gmail page yielded a new surprise. Google has started delivering a set of features to support chat within the Gmail interface.
Chats can be started from inside Gmail with anyone on the user’s contact list or on the Google Talk network. Those chats can be “popped out” of Gmail to run in a separate window.
Google has made a concession to privacy by adding a feature to chat that allows users to go “off the record.” They described that feature on the Chat help page:
The Quick Contacts window shows the most frequently mailed people automatically. Their status for chat availability displays as it does in Google Talk, with various icons next to those user names that show if someone is ready to chat or just wants to be left alone.
Users can set custom status messages and add extra information to let others know why they may be unavailable, for example. Gmail Chat lets its users save chats to Gmail for later reading or printing. A Chats folder appears in the list with Inbox, Starred, etc, to keep those conversations.
The new service does not require the user to download the Google Talk client to a PC. Chat works the same way in Gmail that it does in Talk, though Chat cannot launch a voice call as Talk can.
Though Chat is new to Gmail, MSN Spaces lead program manager Mike Torres blogged that Hotmail has had this for a long time:
With Hotmail, if a user does not have MSN Messenger installed, the chat defaults to MSN Web Messenger instead, Torres noted.
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.