Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Google Talk Birthday comes with an Music Trends

Google Talk, which is celebrating its first birthday with an upgrade, will let people easily transfer files and leave other people voice mail beginning Wednesday.

Now people who use the instant messaging and voice chat service will be able to click a "send file" button, choose which document, photo or other file to send, and transmit it through a chat window as a thumbnail that can be displayed in full size.

People also can leave each other voice mail by either initiating a call that is then unanswered or without initiating a call and going straight into voice mail. Users of Gmail, Google's e-mail service, can play the voice mail without having to download anything. But people who use other e-mail software will have to download the MP3 voice mail attachment to hear it.

Another new feature allows Google Talk users to indicate to their friends what music they are listening to via their status message. The new features will initially be available only in the English language version.

Google Talk is a key piece of the search giant's strategy to make it easy for people not only to search for any kind of information in any location, but also to communicate with each other in various ways online.

"We are investing in a real-time communications platform. Google Talk is the first instance of that," said Mike Jazayeri, a Google Talk product manager.

Google Talk competes with popular chat applications from AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft. Last month, Yahoo opened its latest Yahoo Messenger with Voice, with nearly 200 plug-ins, to the public. Microsoft publicly launched its new Windows Live Messenger in June and added drag-and-drop file sharing and automatic contact updating.

As part of a $1 billion Google investment for a 5 percent stake in AOL, Google and AOL will make their chat services interoperate. Jazayeri said he could not provide a time line for when that might happen. Google is already interoperable with services that use the open XMPP, or "Jabber," chat standard, he said.

Meanwhile, Yahoo and Microsoft made their chat services interoperable last month.

Hooray! The new Google Talk features (file sharing, voicemail, and music status) have completed testing and are now available to everyone. Just use Google Talk normally, and it will auto-update to the new version over the next few days. If you just can't wait, you can download the new version directly. Each of the new features will be discussed here shortly, but I'm going to cover file transfer.

File and photo sharing (file transfer) in Google Talk works like you'd expect: Simple, fast, and fun. Simplicity means that you can drag and drop one or more files directly onto a chat window. As soon as your friend clicks 'Accept', the bits will start flowing. When the transfer completes, the recipient can open the file or find it on disk with a single click.

File transfer is fast. Google Talk makes a direct connection to your friend's computer whenever possible, enabling the fastest speed available. And even if your super-secure firewall won't allow a direct connection, we'll still get it there at a decent speed, because we're nice like that.

Photo sharing is fun! When you drop up to 10 photos on Google Talk, smaller previews automatically appear right inside the chat window, so you can chat about them right away. The previews adjust to the size of your chat window, so just enlarge the window when you want to see more detail. To view the images at full size, or to save them for later, click the 'Download Originals' link.

Google Music Trends

Google just added a new entry into their robots.txt file — "Disallow: /trends/music?". Well, that would naturally get me wondering what they are trying to hide. It turns out they have a new labs project — Google Music Trends.

Where does the data come from? Remember the new feature in Google Talk that lets users display what they are listening to in their status message? The new labs project proudly displays the text: "See what Google Talk users are listening to".

There is also a link that says "Participate in Music Trends" that doesn't have any content yet — but I'm guessing it will take you to a Google Talk download page eventually.


Google just released a new version of the testers version of Google Talk which explicitly asks your permission to share information with this new labs project. See screenshot below.