Google have quietly launched their much rumoured Instant Messaging (IM) client, called Google Talk. The service is still in beta, which might explain the lack of fanfare, and requires a Gmail username and password. You can download the 900k installer from www.google.com/talk/.

Google Talk uses the open Jabber protocol, and as such will allow users to chat to people using other compatible clients, such as Apple's iChat. Cross-network compatibility with Microsoft's popular MSN Messenger was not announced, and is probably unlikely.

Google Talk is integrated with Gmail, allowing you to initiate an IM chat with friends in response an email they just sent you, for example. The service also supports Voice Over IP (VOIP), with Google claiming quality such that you "talk through your computer but hear your friends as if they were in the same room". Given time, we will see whether it measures up to Skype. Incidentally, Google are in talks with the makers of Skype, as well as other services, to negotiate cross-network VOIP.

"We believe strongly in user choice and open standards, and we are committed to letting users access Google Talk using the client and platform of their choice, as well as to enabling our users to talk with users from other service providers," stated Google.

"We also want to keep making Google Talk better and we want your ideas and feedback to help make this happen! Talk to us using the Help link in the Google Talk interface. Let us know what you like, what you don't like, and what you'd really like."

If you want to learn more about Google Talk, there is a good FAQ on the site, and you can share your experiences with other bit-tech readers in the News Discussion forum.
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