Sunday, February 12, 2006

Google Launches Gmail Chat

Google has launched Gmail Chat, the first integration of email and instant messaging in the browser that offers users a seamless communications experience. Gmail Chat enables Gmail users to quickly and easily reach their contacts from directly within their existing Gmail account.

The company said its new offering solves some of the current problems with communications, whereby users must choose between different email or IM applications. With Gmail Chat, there's nothing to download and no new contact lists to build. When users see their existing contacts online, they can either send email or chat instantly.

Gmail Chat also breaks down the arbitrary difference between emails and chats. When chats are saved, they appear as email messages in Gmail, making it easy for users to access and search over important information from their conversations.

Key features of Gmail Chat include:

- Quick Contacts: Located on the left side of users' Gmail screens, the Quick Contacts list automatically displays the people they communicate with most frequently. From the Quick Contacts list, users are now one click away from starting an email or chat or viewing recent conversations with a contact.

- Online presence and status: Users can easily see which contacts are online and available to chat, denoted by a colored icon next to each contact's name. They can also set their own status message for others to see.

- Chat history: Users can choose to automatically save chats in their Gmail account, where the chat history is formatted and saved the same as an email conversation. Chats can be easily viewed, searched, forwarded, printed or deleted. Users may also "Reply" to a chat, which sends an email message to the person with whom they were chatting.

- Chatting off the record: Users can "go off the record" so that a given chat conversation will not be automatically saved in Gmail, by either party.
- Google Talk synchronization: Users' Quick Contacts lists sync with their Google Talk Friends list (although the Google Talk download is still needed for free voice calling).

- No download needed: Innovative AJAX technology enables instant messaging directly in the browser, which means users can chat with their friends anywhere they have Internet access.

Google said that all Gmail users worldwide would have access to Gmail Chat in the coming weeks, further increasing t