updated 04:15 pm EST, Tue November 11, 2008
Gmail Audio Video Chat
Google today launched the surprise addition of Gmail video chat to its webmail interface. The feature lets contacts use Google Talk to start a two-way video or audio-only conversation with anyone currently online and can be started in the middle of a text chat. Like dedicated desktop apps, the web version carries a picture-in-picture view and can be stretched out or made full-screen.
The feature is also potentially usable by any other software, Google says: as it uses H.264 video and standard Internet streaming protocols, third-party apps can hook into the Gmail video chat format to use the feature without tying users to a web browser or specific interface.
Using the feature requires a plugin and is currently limited to Macs and Windows PCs, which can download the update today. It should work with any standard webcam recognized by the respective operating system.
The feature signals an increasing move towards live video for Google. While YouTube and nearly all the company's other properties hinge on prerecorded video, the company has begun to use live video for events and with Gmail is now giving users their first live video streaming feature. YouTube has floated the possibility of live video as with services like Qik and Ustream but so far is focusing only on making its existing playback business profitable.