Google Talk

In case you hadn’t seen, Google Talk has been released, a free multiplatform instant messaging system (akin to MSN Messenger, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM. There’d been rumours that it’d be coming for months and months: not least thanks to Google paying for several of their summer job students to help code Gaim, a free, open source, multiplatform, multiprotocol instant messanger client.

Google Talk is different from the other major networks out there in several ways:

  • It’s based on Jabber, an open standard for decentralised instant messaging. This means that anybody can – and is invited to – write a program that can connect to it. With MSN Messenger, for example, if you want to use it on Linux, you have to use a program which “hacks in” to the MSN protocol – Microsoft don’t endorse this: but with Google Talk, anybody is allowed and indeed encouraged to connect using any tool they like.
  • It also means that it’s decentralised: unlike most major networks, which only let you talk to people on the same network, it’s Jabber back-end means that you can use Google Talk to talk to Jabber users on any other server. This provides redundancy, reduces the risk of vendor lock-in, and maintains the open-ness of the standard. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to have been realised, yet, and Google Talk users can, so far, only talk to other Google Talk users.
  • Jabber can also be extended to communicate with other IM networks. I don’t know if Google intend to provide this functionality, but other Jabber servers already do, letting you talk to MSN, ICQ, AIM, IRC, and Yahoo! users, to name but a few, using just one account (your Jabber account).
  • Oh yeah, and Jabber, like all the best IM networks, lets you leave offline messages for people to pick up when they come online, which is a godsend if you’re trying to carry on a conversation with somebody who’s just gone offline and is likely to come back online soon, so an e-mail seems overkill.
  • Not to mention the fact that the Google Talk client is pretty slick. No ads, voice-chat as standard, and a low memory footprint.

You can download Google Talk and give it a go yourself: your user name is your GMail account (need one – get an invite from, or leave me a comment and I’ll invite you). Or you can use any other Jabber client (such as the fantastic Gaim, to connect – your user name is your GMail account, server is “”, and “connect server” is “”.

Hopefully Google will open up Google Talk to be able to talk to other Jabber users, and eventually, other networks, soon. In the meantime, have a play with this most fantastic new messaging service. See you on there.