Google Talk is simple, but good.

As we mentioned the other day, Google Talk has been unleashed on the world which has largely greeted it with a great big, “So what?” This is understandable as Google’s new baby is much like the search engine itself when you first look at it (read: simple and kind of plain) and some folks who are used to the ridiculous number of extras—from stock tickers to mobile device SMS messaging—thrown at them in other IM clients seem to be having trouble understanding why this should be a big deal.

It’s the simplicity of Google Talk that’ll be its biggest strength I think. Google is the most popular search engine on the planet because when you go there you’re presented with a very clean interface that has one text entry box for you to put your query into. Even if you don’t know a damned thing about how to arrange your query so that the engine will group certain words together it’ll still return some of the most useful links you could hope for 90% of the time, but if you do know how to organize your query then it ends up being that much more powerful. Simple, but amazingly useful without you needing to be a geek. Google Talk is also pretty easy to use. If you already have a Gmail account then once you download and install the 900K GT client all you need to do is login with the same username and password you use for Gmail and you’re up and running. Once in it’ll add in all the folks in your Gmail contacts list to Google Talk if you want it to and make it easy for you to invite them to start using the client. Google has said they intend Google Talk to be a way of tempting folks to use Gmail, which they plan to open up to anyone who wants an account pretty soon. I’d read that anyone could sign up now, but I just checked and there’s still no option to create an account on the login page for Gmail.

Once it’s running it’ll automatically check your Gmail account for new email and pop up notices for you whenever you get one. Beyond that it’s only other two features are Instant Messaging and VoIP calls. The IM is your basic chat interface with no bells or whistles in sight. It doesn’t even convert text smilies into cute graphics like the other clients do. One interesting aspect about it, though, is how it handles multiple messages in a row. Most chat clients prepend the screen name of the person to every message sent so if you sent three messages in a row before the other person responds each message has your screen name on the front of it. Google Talk only appends a screen name when the conversation switches sides so multiple messages from one person ends up looking like a paragraph and I think that’s pretty cool.

The VoIP feature is really nifty. Other IM clients have had voice chat for some time now and the quality is generally OK, but I was surprised at how good the audio in Google Talk was. It was better than phone quality when I tested it out with the help of an SEB regular who didn’t get the chance to hear my voice because I had my mic hooked into the wrong port at the time. Which is just as well, I told him, because I sound like a Redneck Mike Tyson. OK, that’s a lie. I don’t sound anything like Mike Tyson, but I don’t sound as impressive as I should considering how scary everyone thinks I look. Bill used to say I was great to walk through bad neighborhoods with because I look all tough and mean, but if I opened my mouth I’d ruin the effect and we’d get our asses kicked. The VoIP option in Google Talk is obviously dependent on you having a microphone hooked up to your PC, but if you have one then it couldn’t be easier to use. Click the button to start a voice chat and then start talking. A couple of sliders at the top of the window allow you to set volume levels, but otherwise it’s a hands free operation and it doesn’t cost you a dime.

And that’s pretty much all it does at the moment. It does only a couple of things, but it does them very well with a minimum of fuss and that’s going to be very attractive to a lot of folks. Don’t forget that this is just the beginning. Google is reportedly in talks with several other IM providers (AOL and Yahoo) about interoperability with users of their clients as well as VoIP services such as Skype and Gizmo. The VoIP arena is seeing a lot of growth as of late and if Google Talk is able to allow it’s users to contact folks using Skype and Gizmo then that could be a big boost in its favor. See what Michael Robertson, one of the men behind Gizmo and SIPphone, had to say about Google Talk. He seems pretty excited about it.

So, yeah, at the moment it’s your pretty standard IM client that may not seem like much to get excited about, but it holds a lot of promise and it’s very easy to use. For those of you out there who are trying it out and want to add me to your contact list my Gmail address is . I’ve got my mic working so I can even do voice chat now. All I ask is that you remember why the hell you put me on your contact list so you don’t have to ask me to tell you why later. Oh, and if anyone out there still needs a Gmail account give me a shout out as I have 49 invites or so hanging around doing nothing in particular.

Link to Robertson’s article found via Neil’s World.

24 thoughts on “Google Talk is simple, but good.

  1. I wouldn’t mind a mobile/SMS mechanism grafted onto this, as it seems a natural addition (much moreso than most other bells, whistles, and chrome-plated lucnh dispensers of the other IM clients).  But, to be honest, just to have a simple chat without being bombarded with ads, tabs, and fancy animated gifs is enough for me.

    And, yes, I noted the “if you’re just adding to what you wrote, why do we need to repeat your name again” bit.  Very simple, very elegant.

  2. According to this, gmail.com is open for anyone—if you have a mobile phone to send a code to (as a way of tying accounts to real people, not spammers).

  3. Oh, OK. That’s interesting. Well, I suppose then I’ll reserve my invites for those of you who don’t have a mobile phone. Until recently that would’ve been myself as well. grin

  4. That would be me, then…I don’t have a cell and am not enamored of the idea of having one. Eventually I suppose I will, but for now I’m celluless. Care to burn one of those invites on me?

  5. Thanky kindly for the invite. Here’s an interesting detail to note…you can IMPORT an address book .CSV to Gmail, but apparently you can’t EXPORT from it. Or am I just dense and not seeing it?

  6. I downloaded GT to realize you still needed an invite to get on Google.  My family’s out so if you could spare one that would be great.

  7. Hey Les, would LOVE to have heard your Mike Tyson like voice, but unfortunately i couldn’t hear ya.
    Glad to give you the opportunity to test it out.
    And remember, at least you got one tiny tiger of a cat called Melvin.

    Cheers grin

  8. google talk looks really cool, but mac users…unless you are running tiger…it’s of no use to you 🙁  oh, to have the funds to upgrade my os!  *starts saving her pennies*

  9. Len, you’re right. It’s not currently possible to export your contacts from Gmail, though I believe they do plan to add that feature in. At least based on what it says in the help menus.

    Theo, I’ll send one your way. No problem.

  10. It’s a great little thing. The movie site I write for is experimenting with podcasting a news show every week. We’ve been working with Skype, Audacity, and in the last few days, Google Talk.

    I like that last one best so far.

  11. google talk looks really cool, but mac users…unless you are running tiger…it’s of no use to you 🙁 oh, to have the funds to upgrade my os!  *starts saving her pennies*

    One easy way to fix that: sell your mac then buy a computer with a x86 processor (a dell, HP, e-machines, gateway, and just about any computer that can take windows uses a x*6 processor). Then put Linux on it. Gaim, a chat client that comes pre installed with Fedora 2(a type of linux), can support the jabber protocol(the chat protocol that google talk is built on). Thus using Gaim you can get google talk. And Fedora is free. Not to mention a worth wile OS to use.

    By the way I have Gaim running and my name is imNotListening.

    Cheers BunBun

  12. No need to dump the Mac. As I understand it iChat will work with Google Talk’s service as well. Any client supporting the XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) should work just fine.

  13. Google Talk is built of the Jabber Protocol. I know that from google’s FAQ section on protocols.

    But Google Talk aside: linux is the way to go unless you have the very specific need of gaming. The only reason not to use linux would be if you want to game. Other than that linux does every thing better than mac and windows: text editing, develpment, internet browsing, music/video playing, and what ever else. Granted it is more difficult to set the stuff up in most cases. But that is a small draw back for power/robustness.

    Cheers BunBun

  14. “…dump…the…mac”

    …what is this heresy?!?!

    i don’t quite get the elitist computer geek stuff :/  windows/pcs are great. linux is great. macs are great.  it’s personal preference for the most part and i happen to love my mac. 

    and anyways, you lose at “if you want to game”, as i happen to be….NO, i’m NOT a wow addict! i can quit at any time!!!!!

    later.  *coughs*  i mean.  i just kinda like wow.  a little bit.

    also…google talk works wth ichat, IF you have the tiger os upgrade.  i’ll get there.  jes’ more slowly than i would like raspberry

  15. windows/pcs are great. linux is great. macs are great

    That is where you are mistaken. Mac and PC is simply not great. They both suck. It just happens that most good games are written first for windows and then sometimes for mac. The reason Linux is better is because of security, speed, stability, and useability. I was just trying to reinstall my brother windows box for hours. I cant find the right button to make an ethernet connection for my house’s LAN. However on my linux box: about five minutes. Then the security: linux is a far more secure operation system than windows and mac(although mac is better than windows when it come to security). Linux has its problems because all OSs have their problems but linux is the best about it. There are not 1, 2, 3, step cracks that work on linux, however I have seen some for windows. Not to mention linuxes swap space which effectively doubles the RAM on a linux box at the price of it being slightly slower. Windows does not have that but mac(the Unix based one) does. And the biggest problem with mac(the reason I hate it so much) is because it is so DUMBED down. Every thing is done for you in the assumption that you are incapable. I hate it.

    And now for the real and most important reason that linux is better than mac and windows: linux is open source. Mac and Windows are not. With linux you can compile your own version. With linux you could write kernal mods. With linux you could create any software upgrade you want to all the major peices of software out there: my favorites: gcc, g++, nmap, ping, traceroute, and any other peice of software licensed under the GPL(GNU Public License). Because of this hundreds of programmers can work on security mods and the like which allows the linux soft ware be up to date and simply better because more people help write it.

    Sorry for the rant.

    Cheers BunBun

  16. er…i’m sorry.  my eyes glazed over somewhere right after “security, speed, stability, and useability”.  :/

    again, i think it goes back to personal preference.  they all have their pros/cons.  what works for you and makes you happy won’t necessarily fit everyone else.  but hey!  i’m glad that you love linux!  i’m glad it makes you happy smile  yay!

    personally, i want to turn on my computer and have it “just work”.  and my mac does that.  ‘cept for this google talk thing.  :/  need. tiger. update. *drools*

    i do sorta feel bad that you wasted your “rant” (your words, not mine), tho 🙁  am sure you’re trying to be helpful.  but um…viva la difference! smile

  17. Difference in the computing world is not always a good thing. It helps very much to have a standard that is followed by all OSs. Linux generally complies to the open source standards where as mac and windows dont always do so. As an example: if standards where not followed then one operation system would not be able to talk to another over the internet. Luckily every OS I can name follows the standard TCP/IP, ICMP/IP, UDP/IP, and the many other network protocol RFCs out there.

    Cheers BunBun

  18. *eyes have gone beyond glazed and into “omg, where is the coffee?” stage*

    my cousin has this dog.  when it grabs it’s toy, it latches on so tight with it’s little teeth that you can grab the toy…and pick up the dog.  it’s a chihuahua.  you can stand there holding the toy and just swing that lil dog around.

    …i have no idea why this comes to mind, atm.

    so like i said, mac users: googletalk won’t work unless you have tiger os.  and from all i hear, tiger is a dream.

  19. At the risk of this devolving further into a OS flame war, I’m going to address a couple of comments by BunBun:

    That is where you are mistaken. Mac and PC is simply not great. They both suck.

    That’s strictly a subjective statement based on your personal standards of what constitutes a “good” computer, which is fine and all, but is no more valid or invalid than someone who says a PC or Mac is a good computer because it meets their subjective standards. The simple fact is that if someone likes what they’re using then that’s what they should be using and if they don’t then they should seriously consider switching to something that will meet their standards.

    If we’re just going to sit around and argue that our subjective standards for OSes are facts instead of opinions then all modern PCs suck and we should go back to using Amigas as that had the perfect OS ever, so there. wink

    The reason Linux is better is because of security, speed, stability, and useability.

    I’ll give you speed and stability in most cases, but not usability. Part of the reason Linux hasn’t had greater penetration into the market despite being completely free is the fact that it’s not as easily usable as either Windows or MacOS.

    Installing an application in MacOS is pretty much a drag and drop procedure as I understand it. I know this mainly because folks were walking into Apple stores and stealing full copies of Microsoft Office by hooking their iPods into the demo Macs and dragging the Office folder onto the iPod icon and copying the whole damn thing to their iPod’s hard drive.

    Installing an application into Windows is mostly an exercise in clicking the “Next” button until you get to the “Finished” button.

    Installing an application into Linux only comes close to be as easy if theres a package available for your distribution that you can use the download manager to install. Even then it doesn’t automatically create an icon in your program menus or desktop so if you want one you have to add it in yourself (something I’ve never figured out how to do). And if a package isn’t available then you get the joy of trying to figure out how to compile the software yourself which is a hassle most folks don’t want to deal with. I once spent an hour after installing a package trying to figure out what I needed to do to launch the damned thing and I never did figure out how to add an icon for it. That’s not a good thing from a usability standpoint.

    I was just trying to reinstall my brother windows box for hours. I cant find the right button to make an ethernet connection for my house’s LAN. However on my linux box: about five minutes.

    This is just a matter of what you’re familiar with. I can get a network up and running on a PC in five minutes without issue. Most of the time you don’t need to do much of anything to get the network running as the defaults are set for DHCP and Dynamic DNS assignment. It takes a couple of hours to restage a PC, but most of that is just waiting for the software to install and then downloading patches. I do this all the time as part of my job so I’m very familiar with it, but if you’re not used to working with it then it’s more of a problem.

    As an example, I was at a home the other day that wanted to make use of a wireless print server that both a PC and a Mac would be printing to. I had no problems setting up the PC to work, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to get the Mac to work with it even after following the instructions supplied with the wireless print server. I haven’t worked on Macs in 10 years since OS 7 was available so it’s very understandable that I would have a lot of trouble figuring out how to get OS X to do what I wanted it to. Does this mean that the Mac isn’t as usable? No, it just means I’m not as familiar with it as I am the PC.

    Then the security: linux is a far more secure operation system than windows and mac(although mac is better than windows when it come to security). Linux has its problems because all OSs have their problems but linux is the best about it. There are not 1, 2, 3, step cracks that work on linux, however I have seen some for windows.

    Linux is definitely more secure than Windows, but it’s hard to say if it’s more secure than Macs. OS X is based on FreeBSD which also tends to be pretty secure as I understand it. The question that needs to be asked, though, is if this security is because it’s better written or because it’s more obscure? I think it’s a little of both. Windows is a larger focus for the simple reason that it’s a larger user base. As Linux and/or Macs grow in popularity and gain a significant market share we may come to find that the focus may shift and that much vaunted security may just be an illusion. The source code being available is as much a benefit to those looking for holes as it is those who are hoping to patch them.

    Not to mention linuxes swap space which effectively doubles the RAM on a linux box at the price of it being slightly slower. Windows does not have that but mac(the Unix based one) does.

    This is an incorrect statement. Windows has used swap space ever since Windows 95. It’s even possible to set up your PC to use a different partition for the swap space just like Linux, but that’s not the default configuration. Some folks go as far as to use a small (10 Gig or less) HD installed in their PCs strictly to hold their swap space. Is it as efficient as what Linux does? Probably not, but it’s there and it works. With one Gig of RAM in my PC and a handful of applications running I currently have 603,000K of RAM available and a swap file of 440,000K.

    And the biggest problem with mac(the reason I hate it so much) is because it is so DUMBED down. Every thing is done for you in the assumption that you are incapable. I hate it.

    I’ll agree with you that the dumbing down approach of the Mac bugs me as well, but that’s part of the reason it’s popular with folks who want to use it as a tool and not be computer geeks. Not everyone who needs to use a computer wants to be a computer geek despite how incredibly sexy and attractive it would make them.

    And now for the real and most important reason that linux is better than mac and windows: linux is open source. Mac and Windows are not. With linux you can compile your own version. With linux you could write kernal mods. With linux you could create any software upgrade you want to all the major peices of software out there: my favorites: gcc, g++, nmap, ping, traceroute, and any other peice of software licensed under the GPL(GNU Public License). Because of this hundreds of programmers can work on security mods and the like which allows the linux soft ware be up to date and simply better because more people help write it.

    See my statement above about most folks not wanting to be computer geeks to get their system to work. The thought of needing to compile software before they can use it, or needing create their own patches, does not fill them with glee. For you, this is a positive, but for a lot of folks it’s actually a negative.

    Difference in the computing world is not always a good thing. It helps very much to have a standard that is followed by all OSs. Linux generally complies to the open source standards where as mac and windows dont always do so. As an example: if standards where not followed then one operation system would not be able to talk to another over the internet. Luckily every OS I can name follows the standard TCP/IP, ICMP/IP, UDP/IP, and the many other network protocol RFCs out there.

    Standards certainly have their uses, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be more than one way to accomplish the same thing or that people shouldn’t use the tools they feel most comfortable with to do what they want.

  20. I just wanna point out that I am almost one hundred percent certain that mac OS X is UNIX not freeBSD derived, not that there is really a huge amount of differnce in it as freeBSD is UNIX based too.

    The problem with the windows on my bros comp is a lack of drivers for the ethernet card. My bro also managed to lose an important CD key for the reinstall OS cd which should have the drivers if I remeber windows at all.

    Not to mention I speak from experiance when it comes to the best OS. I have used mac for ever at my school, I used to game(Diablo 2 exp, star craft, and warcraft II, and Global Operations) on windows. Then I switched to Linux when I got a new computer a while ago. And from my experiance linux accomplishes most non-geek tasks better than mac and PC (probably because the software is simply better—such as OpenOffice.org and all it children).

    A little clarification: when I said that windows does not have a swap space I was wrong and I did not mean to say that; however, UNIX and UNIX derived OSes have the most efficient swap spaces. I have 512 megs of RAM on my linux box and I have run huge numbers of memery intensive programs at once yet I have yet to see it slow down…on my windows box: it would take seven firefox windows, my Java IDE netbeans, and maybe a few ssh windows to my linus box to put my computer into a coma.

    But I will agree: mostly it is just preference. I cant think of any other reason why people use mac and windows.

    Cheers BunBun

  21. Oh crap, I forgot: installing a program on linux is generally quite simple.

    – If you have an RPM use this command rpm -i

    – if you have an install wizard or executable program to help you install it just run the executable by typing ./ in the executble’s directory.

    – if you have to compile the program it is most likely written in c or c++ in which case there should be a configure script called ‘configure’. Run that script by typing ./configure then go into the source directory, or the directory where the ‘makefile’ is and type make. Then type, if it is needed(refer to the INSTALL text document), type make install. Then you should be able to invoke it from the command line by typing the proper command.

    Cheers BunBun

  22. Oh man, forsome reason my angle brakets were removed:

    command rpm -i

    becomes rpm -i (the name of your rpm file)

    by typing ./

    becomes ./(the name of your executable)

    Yes installing soft ware on a linux box can be more tiresome but it is not any more “difficult’ persay. It is basically just follow a few instructions.

    Cheers BunBun

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