Just like Gmail, Google’s web-based free email system, Google
Talk isn’t available to the general public. Anyone can download Google Talk, but you’ll need a Gmail
account to sign-in. Right now, Google Talk users can’t even chat with non-users. However, they can send friends an invitation to join Google Talk. Those lucky enough to snatch up an invitation will get both a Gmail account and a Google Talk account at the same time. All you need to take advantage of Google Talk is an internet connection, a microphone and a speaker.
So what is Google Talk, anyway? It’s a free service for making voice calls and sending instant messages. It’s a Windows application based in real-time communications. After you download, go ahead and select to remove you Gmail Notifier during installation (it prompts you). A new Gmail Notifier is included with Google Talk. Then just sign-in and your Gmail contacts are automatically uploaded for you. The control panel is certainly a no-frills basic screen. You’ll find three options in the upper right corner of the panel. They are INBOX, SETTINGS and HELP which offer the following features:
INBOX: Takes you to your web-based Gmail account.
General – allows you to enable Google Talk to start automatically when windows starts, set Gmail as your default, sort friends by name, hide offline friends, update your Google web-based account settings.
Blocked – Shows list of blocked contacts.
Privacy – Enables you to add people to your Friends List and save recent chat history.
Notifications – Enables you to select sounds and visual notifications for incoming calls and chats or turn off all notifications.
Connection – Enables you to detect your proxy automatically or set a proxy.
Audio – Enables you to select your input microphone or headset/speakers and automatically adjust them. Select a device for calls, mute and un-mute your speakers and microphone, set your notifications to ring or ding.
HELP: Takes you to Google Talk’s web-based FAQ Help Center.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Before you jump head-in to a free phone call, keep in mind the beta version doesn’t encrypt chats or calls. Gulp. And, as with most instant messaging services, this one collects log information, too. The good news is they don’t permanently store personally-identifying information or log any of the content of your chats or calls. In the future Google Talk intends to add features. “We’re just not quite ready yet to reveal the other cool things we’ve got planned,” says a spokesperson for Google. “We can say this, though: 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.”