Gmail continues to push the barriers with Gmail, today releasing video and audio support to Gmail chat.
Video chat isn't a stranger to the web browser. Services like TokBox
have been offering a web-based video chat solution for a while now, but Gmail are the first leading webmail provider to offer the service as part of the standard offering. Also, using a service like TokBox requires establishing another login and building another contact list etc.
As I've discovered this morning, setting up Gmail video chat isn't as simple as just turning it on. First, you'll need to go here
and download and install the Google Voice and Video plugin.
Once installed, according to Google, 'you'll notice your "Options" link in your chat window has changed to "Video & more". Open this menu and click "Start video chat" to see and hear your conversation partner in high-quality video. You can pop out the video and change its size and position, or switch to full screen. If you don't have a webcam, you can simply chat by voice.'
Like most other services that Google introduces, the roll-out will be global, and will take a couple of days to completely roll out (video chat on my account hadn't been enabled as of this morning).
Google also took the opportunity today to hawk some of its other recent Gmail announcements including canned responses, to help lazy emailers respond automatically to common messages, a forgotten attachment detector, for those occasions when you forget to attach a file to your email and Mail Goggles, which asks you to solve a few simple math problems before your email will be sent.
Whether or not these additional features improve your productivity is certainly questionable, but there's no doubt that Google are rapidly expanding their position as a leading webmail provider through Gmail. They are also making inroads in pushing Google Apps, their online productivity suite, to consumers around the world fed up spending big bucks on Microsoft Office.