Google launches instant messaging service
It wants to take on AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo as a Web portal
IDG News Service - Google Inc. continues to expand beyond its core search engine and push further into Web portal territory with the launch today of an instant messaging service with voice communications capabilities.
"At a high level, this indicates that, whether it likes it or not, Google is officially a Web portal and a media company," said Allen Weiner, a Gartner Inc. analyst.
The consensus has been that Google has to branch out from its search engine roots and build a suite of online services as varied as the ones from portals such as Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and America Online Inc.
The main reason why observers feel Google needs to build up an arsenal of Web portal services is that users aren't very loyal to search engines. However, users are loyal to Web portal services such as IM, photo sharing and Web mail because they provide ways to communicate with others.
The other reason is that Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL have spent the past year aggressively venturing into the search market, Google's stomping ground.
Thus, industry observers have speculated for many months that Google would develop a consumer-oriented IM service to compete against those from AOL, Yahoo and MSN. The speculation is over now that Google's IM service, Google Talk, is here.
To gain users, Google Talk will have to be a compelling service that has the bells and whistles that other IM services have, such as emoticons, as well as complementary applications, Weiner said.
One thing Google has on its side is its decision to build Google Talk on the open XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) framework, which might make Google Talk more attractive to developers than other networks built on proprietary protocols, Weiner said.
Google Talk is in beta-testing mode and requires that its users have an account in Google's free Web mail service Gmail, according to Google, because Google Talk and Gmail are tightly integrated.
For example, Google Talk users' log-in information will be the same they use for Gmail. Also, users will be able to access their Gmail in-box from within the Google Talk interface and send e-mails from there. Google Talk also will alert users about new messages received in their Gmail account.
Another point of integration is that users' Gmail contacts will be loaded automatically into their Google Talk interface, making it possible to exchange instant messages with those who have downloaded the IM software.
Google Talk users will also be able to invite those on their list of contacts to download the IM application. Contacts who aren't Gmail users will receive an invitation to sign up for the Web mail so they can get Google Talk.
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