Gmail Gains Voice & Video Chat

Gmail's budding reputation as a communication hub for more than just e-mail received a major endorsement today with the addition of voice and video chat. Google launched the feature today and will roll it out to users around the world over the next couple of days.

Gmail's new voice and video features work in modern browsers that support the latest version of its web app, namely Firefox 2.0+, Safari 3.0, IE7, and Google Chrome. Google Apps users will also get this feature as it rolls out, but Gmail voice and video conversations are only supported on Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Windows Vista via a Gmail voice and video chat plug-in that must be installed. Sorry, students, Internet café nomads, and cubicle warriors everywhere, but you may have to beg your admins for this new feature.

Google touts the fact that this new feature is built on open standards such as XMPP, RTP, and H.264, which means that third parties developers and networks are free to incorporate Gmail voice and video chat into their applications.

Voice and video chats can run in chat windows inside of Gmail, pop-out windows, or even be scaled full screen. As of this writing, however, none of the Ars Orbiting HQ staff have seen this feature arrive in our Gmail accounts, so we can't give it a go.

"Gmail has always been about more than just e-mail," Google said in a press release. While that may be a debatable statement depending how far back in Gmail's history you travel, the company isn't kidding around with this "hub" concept if you consider all the functionality that has opened up via its recent Gmail Labs experiment. While some Gmail application are not much more than cute novelties, everything from more powerful e-mail management to a growing list of third-party gadgets can now be enabled and embedded in Gmail. The addition of voice and video chat, though slightly encumbered by the requirement of a plug-in, is likely to draw new users and give current Gmail users a reason to log in more often.

(As reported by

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