Google To Offer Free Messaging, Web Phone Service To Gmail Users
The program allows Gmail users to message or talk via the Internet to any other Gmail users who have installed either Google Talk or another compatible program.
The product will feature the uncluttered Google interface, and will not be monetized through ads or fees--at least for now, said Google Director of Product Management Georges Harik. "We hope to monetize it in the future in a way that's consistent with the user experience," he added.
Along with the release of Google Talk, the company also made its Gmail service more broadly available. Now, prospective users can apply for a Gmail account by using a mobile phone to request an authentication code; in the past, users had to be invited into the system by existing Gmail account holders.
Harik said the invite-only membership, and now the mobile phone authentication process, is intended to prevent spammers from creating multiple Gmail accounts and flooding the network with outgoing spam messages.
Google is in talks with other networks to offer interoperability for Google Talk across a number of different platforms. EarthLink, for one--which is planning to release its own messaging and Internet phone feature--will be compatible with Google's network, meaning that Google Talk users and users of EarthLink's services will be able to communicate freely.
"The one thing we want to try to do is make IM an open system, like e-mail and phone, so you can talk to anyone anywhere, regardless of who their provider is," said Harik. "If you want to interoperate your network with our network, you can do it without talking to us--no monetary compensation--we just think it's the best thing for the users."
Harik added that Google will welcome open source or independent developers to allow their products to function with Google Talk.
The search giant's competitors, including MSN, Yahoo!, and AOL, also have developed instant messaging software that offers Voice over Internet protocol functionality.
When it comes to instant messaging programs, AOL's AIM program is the clear market leader--with 30.9 million visitors in July, plus another 23 million AOL users using the proprietary service for AOL members only, according to comScore Media Metrix. MSN's Messenger saw 23.2 million visitors last month, and Yahoo! Messenger drew 21.6 million last month, according to comScore. AIM has been gaining ground over MSN and Yahoo's product, increasing three percent between July 2004 and 2005, with Yahoo! falling 16 percent and MSN falling 11 percent over the same period.