Google has just launched its own instant messenger service. Called “Google Talk”, you can use it for the regular typed chat as well as for voice calls between computers.
Google definitely is a latecomer in regards to instant messaging, with AOL, MSN and Yahoo! all offering long-established and popular messaging services like MSN Messenger, ICQ or Yahoo Messenger. However, this latest product launch means that Google is looking more and more like a portal, no matter whether they would like to think of themselves as being a pure search engine and information retrieval player or not.
Google Talk is currently only available to existing Gmail users. While Gmail is still in beta, Google is starting to open up access to email accounts a bit more. If you live in the United States and have a cell phone, you should be able to score an invitation to Gmail via SMS if you follow the instructions on this Gmail account creation page.
In regards to the actual usability of Google Talk, early users haven’t been overly impressed. Google Talk has all the typed chat features you’d expect, but the voice quality of the voice call option doesn’t appear to be very good, and one reviewer (none other than Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Watch) has remarked that he missed the “wow” factor that he’s come to associate with Google’s other recent developments like Google Earth.
Do you use messaging a lot? In a previous job of mine, messaging was forbidden by company directive due to fears of lost productivity. I think messaging actually can provide a great boost to your productivity.
Pretty much everyone here at ineedhits uses MSN Messenger (we even ask new starters to set themselves up on Messenger if they haven’t used it before), and it’s proven to be a really helpful way of communicating with people. Instead of picking up the phone or walking to someone’s desk for a minor question, you can simply type in a few words, and get a response back almost immediately. We also tend to send files back and forth via Messenger quite a bit, which is especially useful with oversized file sizes. Our contacts at an agency we work with across town are also on Messenger, and we probably use it more than email or phone when we coordinate campaign details with them.
On the other hand, messaging certainly adds to your daily information overload and you might fall into the “urgent versus important” trap – if someone is asking you something via Messenger, you might be more likely to respond to fairly low-priority queries instead of concentrating on your big-picture, important project work. Staff can certainly get tempted to abuse it for personal chats if they don’t apply appropriate self-discipline and restraint. But you’d hope that you can trust your team to use a messaging service responsibly if you entrust them with something as important as taking care of your customers!