Google Talk Beta Publicly Launches

It's official. Google late Tuesday released a beta of its highly anticipated Google Talk instant messaging client. Much like the search giant's Web site, the software sports a straightforward no-frills user interface free of the clutter and advertising that bog down other IM clients.

Weighing in at only 900kb, Google Talk is a much smaller download than other popular IM services, including AIM, MSN, and Yahoo. However, for the time being its feature list is quite sparse.

Anyone with a Gmail account can log into the service, and the client will pre-load a user's address book into the contact list. Users have the option of inviting friends not on the Gmail service by clicking the "add friend" link - Google will then send an invitation to open a Gmail account.

Frequently e-mailed contacts will appear at the top of the Google Talk list by default.

As expected, Google Talk is based on the Jabber protocol, meaning users will have several other options to access the service including Adium and iChat for OS X, Trillian for Windows, and GAIM and Psi for either platform as well as Linux.

Google preemptively responded to privacy concerns, stating it will not log the contents of any chat or voice conversation. "As with all major IM services, Google Talk will collect certain log information created in the course of a conversation. This information is for Google's internal use only, to maintain statistics on usage and to improve our service and the user experience."

However, the company did warn that the beta version of Google Talk does not have any type of encryption. "We plan to fully support encryption of chats and calls before our official release," Google says.

Google also said it remains committed to open standards and choice, and hopes to give the client the capability to connect to other messaging services regardless of provider.

"We believe that you should have a choice in how you communicate with your friends, that you shouldn't have to use one service because that's where you keep your contacts and other information."

Future additions to Google Talk will include support for the SIP protocol used in VoIP communications, which would allow the client to directly contact phones based on the technology. Google said it was aligning with Earthlink and Sipphone to make these features possible, but provided no timetable for planned availability.

While the client is only available for Windows XP, 2000 and Windows Server 2003 at this time, Google said it would explore providing support for Mac OS X and Linux.

Google Talk is available for download via FileForum. Tell us what you think!

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