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Preview: Google Talkabout

Google Talkabout

A blog about voice, IM and open communications with Google Talk.

Updated: 2016-10-17T00:51:49.704-07:00


Free calling in Gmail extended through 2011


(Cross posted from the Gmail blog)

When we launched calling in Gmail back in August, we wanted it to be easy and affordable, so we made calls to the U.S. and Canada free for the rest of 2010. In the spirit of holiday giving and to help people keep in touch in the new year, we’re extending free calling for all of 2011.

In case you haven’t tried it yet, dialing a phone number works just like a regular phone. Look for “Call phone” at the top of your Gmail chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

To learn more, visit Calling in Gmail is currently only available to U.S. based Gmail users.

Happy New Year and happy calling!

Posted by Robin Schriebman, Software Engineer(image)

How to send chats (and 50 other things you might want to teach your parents)


When I first saw a green dot by my dad’s name in the chat box, I was excited to finally be able to chat with him rather than pick up the phone or send an email. I messaged him a few times, but never got a response. It wasn’t until I went home for the holidays and asked him why he never answered that I found out that he always saw my messages, but really had no idea how to go about sending or responding to chat messages them.

With a bit of tutoring and practice, my dad has become quite the master chatter, messaging me at all hours of the day, telling me to go to bed at night and asking me if I’ve gotten enough sleep in the morning.

We at Google love using technology in our daily lives and want to share that with our loved ones so we can connect whether we’re right next door or hundred of miles apart. is a site we’ve created to send basic how-to videos to our families. Here’s a video I created on how to use chat:

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For more videos or to send videos to your loved ones, visit Have a safe and happy holidays!

Posted By Allen Huang, Associate Product Manager(image)

Santa’s calling (from his Google Voice number)


(image) Growing up, December was always a favorite month of mine. School would let out for two weeks, snowflakes would start falling and I’d write my letter to Santa to remind him that I’d been especially good that year (and ask if he’d mind bringing me a few Ninja Turtles). He never answered those letters—he’s a busy guy, after all—but what if he could pick up the phone and call me instead? What if Santa had Google Voice and could easily call all the kids on his list?

Well, this year he can—with your help. If you know a kid (of any age) who’d like to hear from Santa, create and send a personalized phone call from the jolly man in the red suit himself at

There are hundreds of options to choose from, so you can send unique, customized phone calls to anyone you know, from your nieces and nephews to old college friends, over the phone (to U.S. numbers only) or via email, Facebook or Twitter.

If you or your kids have a special request or message for Santa, you can leave him a message at his Google Voice number: 855-34-SANTA. Although he’s too busy to return messages himself, you can always create one on his behalf at the Send a Call From Santa site.

Ready to spread some holiday cheer? Listen to a sample message, and visit to send a message of your own.

And don’t forget—if you want to keep up with Santa as he travels around the globe delivering presents on Christmas Eve, you can track his journey on Google Maps, on Google Earth with the plug-in and on your mobile phone, too.

Posted by Michael Bolognino, Product Marketing Manager(image)

Call credits for military families this holiday season


(Cross-posted from the Google Voice blog)

Keeping in touch with family during the holiday season can be challenging for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for military families with loved ones serving around the country or overseas.

Gmail’s built in video chat and free calls to the U.S. and Canada can help keep friends and family in contact regardless of how far apart they may be. To make staying in touch this holiday season even easier for military families, we’re offering a $10 calling credit to help them reach their loved ones serving abroad.

These international call credits can be used to make calls with Google Voice or from right inside Gmail, and will provide families with roughly 30 minutes of call time to Afghanistan, 60 minutes to Iraq, or hundreds of minutes to many countries in Europe and around the world.

To make this possible, we’ve partnered with Blue Star Families and Sesame Street, two organizations dedicated to supporting service members and their families.

Photo by Sesame Workshop, 2010

To be eligible for $10 calling credits, military family members must:
  1. Be a member of either Blue Star Families or Sesame Street Family Connections — registration is free for all military families
  2. Provide their Gmail address
  3. Enable calling in Gmail and accept the terms of service OR have an existing Google Voice account
  4. Complete this registration form by December 22, 2010

We recognize the sacrifices military family members make when loved ones serve abroad, and we’re proud to help make it a little bit easier for families to stay connected over the holidays.

At this time, Google Voice and calling in Gmail are available in the U.S. only.

Posted by Michael Bolognino, Product Marketing Manager(image)

New in Labs: Video chat enhancements


(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

If you use video chat in Gmail, you might be interested in a new Labs feature we just rolled out that allows you to preview new video chat features before they're turned on for everyone. Visit the Gmail Labs tab under Settings, turn on "Video chat enhancements," and right away, you'll see higher resolution video and a bigger video chat window.


The higher resolution video uses a new playback mechanism which enables widescreen VGA and frees up valuable resources on your computer. For it to work, both you and the person you're chatting with will need to have the lab turned on. Remember that you can always revert to standard video chat by disabling the lab.

We plan to add more video chat enhancements to this lab in the future, so if you have it on you'll automatically get those too. Feel free to post your comments or report any issues you encounter in the video chat forum (we also follow #googlevideochat on Twitter).


Call phones from Gmail


(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

Gmail voice and video chat makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family using your computer’s microphone and speakers. But until now, this required both people to be at their computers, signed into Gmail at the same time. Given that most of us don’t spend all day in front of our computers, we thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if you could call people directly on their phones?”

Starting today, you can call any phone right from Gmail.

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Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year and calls to other countries will be billed at our very low rates. We worked hard to make these rates really cheap (see comparison table) with calls to the U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan—and many more countries—for as little as $0.02 per minute.

Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click “Call phone” at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

We’ve been testing this feature internally and have found it to be useful in a lot of situations, ranging from making a quick call to a restaurant to placing a call when you’re in an area with bad reception.

If you have a Google Voice phone number, calls made from Gmail will display this number as the outbound caller ID. And if you decide to, you can receive calls made to this number right inside Gmail (see instructions).

We’re rolling out this feature to U.S. based Gmail users over the next few days, so you’ll be ready to get started once “Call Phones” shows up in your chat list (you will need to install the voice and video plug-in if you haven’t already). If you’re using Google Apps for your school or business, then you won’t see it quite yet. We’re working on making this available more broadly - so stay tuned!

For more information, visit

Posted by Robin Schriebman, Software Engineer

Use Linux? Now you can video chat too


(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

If you’ve been wanting to use voice and video chat on Linux (our top video chat request), then we have good news for you: it’s now available! Visit to download the plugin and get started. Voice and video chat for Linux supports Ubuntu and other Debian-based Linux distributions, and RPM support will be coming soon.

Posted by Tristan Schmelcher, Software Engineer(image)

Video chatting with Grandma


(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

Two weeks ago we asked you to submit photos of you video chatting with your grandma. Thank you for all your submissions! As promised, we’d like to highlight a few photos that particularly touched us.

Emmanuel from Israel submitted this photo and wrote "My grandmother lives in Nice, France and could not come to our wedding in Israel, this is as close as we got to having her with us."

Charlie from New York City sent in these great photos of his daughter Maayan’s first video chat with her grandparents in Portland.

And Niranjan from Bangalore submitted this photo of him video chatting with his grandmother in Mumbai while away at college.

Thanks again for your submissions-- and happy video chatting!

Posted by Cody Bratt, Google Chat team(image)

Grandmother's guide to video chat


(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

Often when I tell people that I work on Google video chat, I hear stories about how they’ve used it to give a video tour of a new home to friends, introduce a baby to relatives, keep in touch with traveling loved ones... the list goes on. This got me thinking about how convenient— and sometimes even magical — the experience of video chatting is.

So when I saw that my grandma, who loves keeping in touch with family more than anyone, wasn’t set up to use video chat, I decided to help her get started. While doing so, it occurred to me how many people there must be out there in similar situations. If only there were a simple way that any grandmother could use to get started on her own...

Introducing the Grandmother’s Guide to Video Chat:

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This video, along with a printable guide, can be accessed at Feel free to share this link with your grandma—or grandpa—or, well, anyone who wants to video chat to help get them up and running.

And after your grandma is all set up, take a screenshot of you video chatting with her and email it to to share it with us. The first 100 people to do so will get a t-shirt, printable guide and VHS of the video (because if your grandma’s like mine, she’s still a cassette kind of girl).

In a few weeks, we’ll feature the best photos submitted on the Gmail blog.


Friend Suggestions in iGoogle chat


If you’re like most people, you probably have different groups of friends. Now, with Google Chat in iGoogle, you can connect these friends by suggesting people they might already know, or who share their interests.

In addition, Google Chat will automatically suggest contacts we think you’ll be interested in, based on the people you email with the most (similar to what is currently done in Gmail). Suggestions will typically appear upon sign in (if available).

If you don’t want to receive contact suggestions, you can turn them off by clicking Options, then clicking Chat Settings, and clearing the Display contact suggestion banners checkbox.

Posted by David Bennett, software engineer

File transfer in iGoogle and orkut chat


Have you ever wanted to quickly send a file to a friend whom you're chatting with online?  Starting today, you can share photos, documents, and other files while chatting in iGoogle and orkut.  To give it a try, just click Send a file... in the Actions menu while chatting with a friend (no download required):

This feature is also compatible with the file transfer functionality in the Google Talk downloadable software, so you can share files directly from the web with folks who use the desktop version.

File transfer is available in orkut and iGoogle only for now.  We're working on bringing it to Gmail as well, and we'll keep you posted when that happens!

​Posted by Lizhen Wang, software engineer(image)

Easier chat controls


When Google Chat first launched, it only supported text chat. Now, it supports voice, video and group chat. Lately, we've been hard at work making video chat work even better, and the reception has been so good that we're giving voice, video and group chat a new and improved home at the top of the chat window in iGoogle and orkut. While this isn't a major change, we hope it makes using all of our features easier.

If you’ve never used voice or video chat in iGoogle or orkut, it’s easy to get started. You'll just need a webcam and a microphone. If you already have a webcam and a microphone, you’ll just need to download a small plugin for video chat, available for free at

With the plugin installed and your camera enabled, your friends will see a small green camera icon like this (image)  next to your name in their chat lists. Then, to start a voice or video chat, simply click either the voice or video icon in the toolbar and talk away to your heart's content - all for free.

If you primarily use chat in Gmail, don't worry, we haven't forgotten you!  It'll be coming soon to Gmail as well.

Posted by Bruce Leban
Software Engineer(image)

​A smoother voice and video experience


We have spent the last few months focusing on three things: quality, quality, and quality! For those of you with the Google voice and video chat plugin installed, you have recently received an automatic update that contains:
  • A fix that reduces crashes on newer macs (Mac OS X v10.6.2 specifically)
  • A fix for webcam compatibility on Windows (including HP webcams)
  • Several fixes to increase plugin stability
  • Several fixes to the infrastructure used to set up and connect your video calls.

From users who have chosen to “Report quality statistics” in their chat settings, we can see a substantial increase in call connection rates and a big decrease in the call drop rate (see chart below). We hope that this will result in more enjoyable conversations with our software.


As with all software, working on improving quality is a never ending process, so we hope that you will continue to report any issues you have in our user forum, and we will continue to work on improving connection rates and call quality.

Thanks to all of you who use our service -- and especially those of you who report issues!

Posted by Jessan Hutchison-Quillian and Mikael Drugge
Software engineers


Google voice and video update for Snow Leopard


Over the weekend, we released a specific 1.0.15 update for the Google voice and video chat software. This update is for Mac computers only, and is focused on resolving compatibility issues with Mac OS X v10.6, Snow Leopard. All current Mac installations on OS X v10.4 and v10.5 will begin an automatic update within the next few days.

However, if you have previously installed an older version of Google voice and video chat on OS X v10.6, you will need to re-install it manually by visiting and download the new 1.0.15 version.

You can use your Gmail account to find out what version is currently installed. Simply go to the Gmail Settings page and look under the "Chat" tab. You will see the plugin version under the "Learn more" link, in small type.

The following Mac OS X v10.6 issues were fixed in version 1.0.15:

* Fixed problem where the Google Talk Plugin was not detected in Safari
* Fixed problem where the Google Talk Plugin would delay system sleep by 30 seconds
* Fixed problem where video would not be displayed in a video chat
* Fixed problem where registration for automatic upgrades did not work
* Fixed problem when uninstalling and reinstalling the same version

If, after installing version 1.0.15, you continue to encounter issues with video not being displayed, a single reboot of your Mac should fix the problem. We are working with Apple to resolve this. If you are on 1.0.15 and experience problems, please report them on the Gmail voice and video chat forums.

Posted by Justin Uberti
Software Engineer(image)

XMPP support on App Engine


Google App Engine is a product where developers can create and host web applications on Google infrastructure. Over on the App Engine team, we've noticed that there are lots of cool chat bots for things like translation or just for fun, but up until today deploying and maintaining a chat bot was a lot of hard work. So we're happy to announce the release of an API that makes it very simple to build Talk bots on top of App Engine. Check out the App Engine blog for more details.

Posted by: Michael Davidson
Software Enginer(image)

Google voice and video plugin update


Recently, we released the 1.0.13 update for the Google voice and video chat software. All current installations have begun an automatic update and should reach you within the next few days. If you do not have the plugin, you can visit and run the installer.

Here's what's new in version 1.0.13:
  • Improved startup time for both voice and video calls.
  • Detection and recovery for some situations that would cause the plugin to hang indefinitely, which could lead to messaging like "Detecting devices" in the settings page or "Add voice/video chat" in the roster or chat menu.
  • Fixed connectivity problems caused by VMWare virtual network adapters.
You can use your Gmail account to find out what version is currently installed. Simply go to the Gmail Settings page and look under the "Chat" tab. You will see the plugin version under the "Learn more" link, in small type.

If you're on 1.0.13 and still having a problem, please report it on the Gmail voice and video chat forums.

Posted by Tim Haloun
Software Engineer

Video chat from iGoogle


I use iGoogle to chat with friends while I check the daily news, email co-workers, and even scan through cute kitty pics — you name it, iGoogle has it. Chatting is great for sharing quick thoughts, but sometimes I'd rather just talk to my friends face to face. For instance, last week I got to hold an adorable 3-month-old giant panda. I really wanted to share the excitement of it with my friends, but my fingers just couldn't keep up with the speed and emotion of my thoughts. Now we're making it easier to chat face-to-face, with video chat built right into iGoogle. Just a few clicks and I can see and hear friends and family right from my homepage.

The first time you use video chat in iGoogle, you'll need to download a small plugin. It's free and installs in seconds. To video chat with a friend, click on the "Start video chat" link in the "Actions" menu at the bottom of a chat window. You can see which of your friends are set up for video by the small green camera icon next to their name in their chat list. Once you start chatting, you can pop out the window and make the size bigger or go full-screen.

We have had video chat in Gmail for a little while now, but the nice thing about video chat in iGoogle is that you can video chat with friends who don't have gmail accounts, all you need is a Google account. One less thing to worry about when you want to stay in touch. We'll also be rolling this new feature out over the course of the next few days so if you don't see it on your homepage today, just keeping checking back. As always, we'd love to know how you're enjoying the new feature.

Posted by Robin Schriebman
Software Engineer(image)

Video chat tips


(image) Hi all, we wanted to share some thoughts, tricks and tips around our Gmail video chat feature. Our first video chat tip is around making the call window bigger on your screen. When a video chat first starts, it is in the small chat window, and you see more of your email inbox than the person you wanted to talk to.

(image) Did you know you could use the "pop-out" arrow on the top of a chat window to make a video chat bigger? This will separate the video chat into its own window that you can resize and move around as you like.

(image) If you want to make the video chat as large as possible and block everything else out, simply use the Full Screen button in the top left corner of the video area. This will fill up your screen and make your conversation much more immersive. Based on the feedback you've given us, we have added the ability to mute your microphone while in full screen mode. To do this, simply hit the space bar!

Feel free to reach us by linking to this blog and by using twitter. We monitor "Gmail video chat", Gmail video chat", "Google video chat", or #googlevideochat in your tweets.

Posted by Fredrik Oja,
Software Engineer(image)

Attention Nerds! A new gadgets API for communication


I spent my youth writing games on a computer hooked up to my parents' television but despite saving my pennies to buy a 300-baud modem, I was never able to realize my dream of writing a game that my best friend and I could play against each other on two computers. In all my games the I,J,K and M keys were used by player 1 while player 2 was stuck with W,A,S and Z on the same keyboard.

This was in the back of my mind when I started putting my 20% time towards building a simple javascript library on top of our Google Talk web client. After some demos, my 20% project grew to an 80% project, and we're now ready to show off -- and get feedback on -- the gadgets.realtime set of APIs. These APIs will let Google gadgets hosted in different user's browsers communicate with each other. The first API, gadgets.sharedstate, is available on the new Talk Developer Sandbox. With this API, you can share an object between instances of a gadget, and be notified in realtime when the other instance modifies it. More APIs and UI improvements to allow gadgets.realtime gadgets to be used on orkut and iGoogle are in the works and coming soon.


For more information and for sample applications, see the documentation.

We've set up a discussion group to collect feedback. So, help me out, fellow geeks! Try out this API and let me know what you think and share any cool gadgets you write.

Moishe Lettvin, Software Engineer

Update (4/12/10): Our team decided to stop working on the gadgets.sharedstate API. The sandbox and the test harness will be shut down soon. Thanks for giving it a try.

Show your Talk buddies where you are


Google Latitude is a service that allows you to see where your friends are on a map in real time. You can choose whether to share your location with any or all of your friends and can display what you are up to with a status messages. And now there is a new feature that makes it easy to automatically share your location with your Google Talk buddies. Read more on the Google Apps blog.

Brian Hutchins
Product Marketing Manager(image)

All Orkut users can chat


(image) Hi Orkut users! For those of you who didn't have Gmail enabled for your account or use a user name, you may have found it odd that Google Talk was not available in Orkut for you. Well, now we are enabling chat for all Orkut accounts, without the Gmail requirement. Any Orkut user will be able to chat on the Google Talk network using their existing email address as their user name! We are in the process of turning it on for everybody, so if you don't see it yet then it's coming soon.

For added security, we require a simple email verification to use this new feature. Click here to learn how to verify your account.

Those of you who have been paying closer attention might have noticed that chat for non-Gmail accounts already works in the new version of iGoogle (available for some users, coming soon to everyone). The Talk server team has been working behind the scenes to make this possible. We've engineered a solution that allows you to chat using an email address that is not hosted at Google, while preserving our existing interoperability with 3rd party XMPP clients and server-to-server communication with other XMPP networks.

Talk in Gmail is great, and we are really excited about putting Talk in other fun and useful places. If you already have a Google account, you're all set.

Adam Fass,
Software Engineer(image)

Chat on iGoogle


You can now chat right from iGoogle, Google’s personalizable homepage, while checking news, watching videos, or playing games. iGoogle chat works from your browser, like Gmail chat, and you can exchange instant messages with any of your contacts that have an iGoogle, Gmail, or Google Talk account. To read more about iGoogle chat, check out this post on the Official Google blog.


Posted by Rhett Robinson, Google Talk Engineer(image)

Voice and video chat now in Gmail


We are happy to announce the release of voice and video chat in Gmail. Now you can chat in high quality audio and video with your Google Talk contacts from Gmail. Check out the details on the Gmail blog and the Official Google blog.

Serge Lachapelle
Product Manager, Stockholm(image)

New Google Talk Help Forum


Got a burning question about how to best use Google Talk? Today we launched a new Forum within Google Help that allows you to ask questions about Google Talk and have them answered by both Google employees and other Google Talk fans. We believe this new platform will make it even easier for you to find help, and for Google employees and fans to share their knowledge of the product.

Particularly great answers can be marked as a "Best Answer", so people with a similar problem can find a solution quickly and easily. The Google Help Forum also keeps track of how active a user is in the Forum. For example, you can see who is a Google Employee, top contributor, seasoned poster, or new poster.


And don't worry, we aren't removing the ability to search and read our old Google Talk Help Group content, but we have closed it from any additional posts. So, if you do have a question regarding Google Talk, go ahead and ask it!

Dana Jermanis
Google Help Team(image)

New transliteration bots make it easy to chat in Indian languages


(image) Have you ever wished that you could chat with your family and friends in your native language? Sometimes there's just no substitute for expressing a thought in your own language. Google Talk now has transliteration bots that will convert text from English to Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil or Telugu. Think of a bot as an invited guest to your chat session that will transliterate what you type in English to the right local script. For those who are not familiar with transliteration, it is a service provided by Google India that allows you to type in Indian languages using phonetically equivalent English script (it is also available on our labs page, orkut scraps and blogger). If you're chatting in Hindi, when you type 'haal kaisa hai janab ka?' the bot will reply in Hindi as 'हाल कैसा है जनाब का?'

There are currently 5 transliteration bots - Hindi (en2hi.translit), Kannada (en2kn.translit), Malayalam (en2ml.translit), Tamil (en2ta.translit) and Telugu (en2te.translit), and remember that their names end with "". To use one of these bots follow these three steps:

1) First add the bot that you want to your friend's list. (For example, add for Hindi). You just need to do this once.
2) Start a chat session with your friend
3) Convert the chat session to a group chat and invite the bot to it.

Read this to know more about the bots, and let us know what you think.

तो शुरू हो जाइए...

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Kuntal Loya
Software Engineer