Google is tightening the link between Gmail and Google Talk by allowing users to conduct instant messaging text chat sessions from within the Webmail service’s interface.
To use Google Talk from within Gmail, users don’t need to download any additional software nor a separate application. It’s a new Gmail feature that Google has enabled.
Users will see a new list of contacts, from which IM sessions can be started. IM windows open up right on the browser, which can be either Microsoft Internet Explorer, versions 6.0 and up, or Mozilla Firefox 1.0 and up. Support for other browsers will be added later.
Google developed this feature to address the “arbitrary separation” that exists between e-mail and IM applications, a source of frustration and inconvenience for users.
Users wanting to use Google Talk’s voice chat feature will have to use the IM service’s own interface, because, at least for now, Gmail will only host text chat IM sessions.
Google Talk sessions conducted on Gmail will be saved by default along with e-mail messages. Users have the option of turning off this functionality to prevent the system from keeping a record of a text chat.
It will be interesting to see how this Google Talk-Gmail integration progresses, particularly if Google adds the voice chat capabilities and pushes it into the area of group collaboration, to rival products such as Microsoft’s NetMeeting.
When Google Talk was launched, it included a set of initial links with Gmail, including identical log-in information and the ability to access the Gmail inbox from within the Google Talk interface and send e-mail messages from there. In addition, Google Talk alerts users when new messages are received in their Gmail account. Moreover, the two services share a single list of contacts.