What’s up with Google Talk


When Google Talk was announced yesterday after months of swirling rumors, I decided not to blog about it, as I thought there would already be more than sufficient discussion on the topic. This blog is primarily intended to cover not-so-obvious yet deeply important developments. However a number of people have asked me for my opinion about the announcement, so here’s my take in a nutshell. The main response so far has been “So what?”, as on the face of it the instant messaging and voice capabilities of Google Talk don’t match the competition. However remember that Google’s free email service Gmail has been in Beta for 17 months, requiring a personal invitation to join, and has done well despite this pretty major constraint. Google wasn’t looking to take over the world on day one with free email. Same story with Google Talk. It doesn’t need to be whiz-bang for it to be positioned over time for synergies with other parts of their suite. Which is exactly the point in that Gmail is now open to the public, and having a Gmail account a requirement to use Google Talk. The bigger part of the story is that Google Talk is based on the open-source, open standard Jabber. The refusal of Yahoo, AOL, and MSN to allow interoperability of their instant messaging networks is one of the classic standards battle case studies. Of course, Google adopting an open standard and inviting the other players to interoperate doesn’t change the world. However it’s one of the more powerful single events that is likely to shift the status quo. If Google Talk gets traction, which as it adds features and integration into other Google tools it is very likely to do, the benefits of interoperability may finally shift the IM landscape. As a latecomer to the space, that’s exactly what Google wants.