Google's Gmail has quickly become one of the most popular Web-based e-mail applications available -- and it just added video and voice chat capabilities.
Gmail has become popular because of its aggressive spam filters and embedded chat capabilities, making it a Web page that most users stay active in all day, every day. Today, the Gmail team at Google has expanded its capabilities by including video and voice chat. On the Gmail blog Justin Uberti, software engineer for Google, writes, "[T]oday we're launching voice and video chat -- right inside Gmail. We've tried to make this an easy-to-use, seamless experience, with high-quality audio and video -- all for free."
In order to access Gmail Video and Voice Chat, users have to install the voice and video plug-in, and, as the Uberti states it, Google "takes care of the rest."
Gmail Voice and Video Chat was designed using Internet standards such as XMPP, RTP and H.264, making the Google program able to interact with separate, third-party applications, assuming those separate voice and video applications decide to allow Gmail's offering to interact with them.
Installation is easy and only takes a few seconds to download the plug-in. Once the browser is restarted, a "Video and more" menu will appear at the bottom of the Gmail page. Go to the menu and select "start video chat." It will take a few moments for the video call to connect with your friend of co-worker.
Once the video and voice session is initiated, users can pop the window out of the Gmail interface, just like an Gchat instant message window. Users are then given the option to go full screen with the chat, for an up close and personal experience with your chat partner. In order for Gmail Voice and Video to function on your machine a Web cam is required.
Google and the Gmail team are in the initial stages of rolling this feature out to PC and Mac machines, which means the functionality may not appear right away. But don't worry, the Gmail team guarantees that the functionality will be available to everyone in the next couple of days.