E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Google Talk – Is It Really Worth While All the Fuss ?

(Migrated weblog post from LSR)

I guess that the rumours are now finally over. And just like I mentioned, not too long after the rumours were growing rather strong, we get to find out that Google releases Google Talk (or GTalk).

And by the looks of it almost everybody in the Blogosphere seems to have been talking about it. And if not check out the Technorati Search on Google Talk and you will find out that in just a single day there have been already 4,671 posts. Very few beta applications reach that level of popularity in such a short period of time, I would think. And I wouldn’t be surprise given all the recent discussions about Google trying to enter the Instant Messaging world.

Somehow it has grabbed everybody’s attention and I just couldn’t help commenting myself on it as well, why not?, since I am just such a big fan of VoIP / Instant Messaging. Yes, I know you have heard / read about it already (You are probably getting tired of all the hype around it already, even though it is its first day out) but just for those who may not have seen it yet, GTalk is the latest VoIP / IM to enter the market after quite a few other offerings, that I have weblogged about in my weblog previously.

Although it may be a bit too early actually, since I have just tried it with a couple of folks, and for not too long, I thought I would go ahead and share 5 reasons why I liked it and another 5 reasons why I wasn’t very much impressed for this first release, at least. So without any further delay here we go with that review:

Things I like about GTalk:

  • Ease of use on the GUI: I really like the simplicity of the user interface. No ads, no pop-ups, no spyware, not too many graphics, not too much text. Just the perfect blend, including the 900 kb download. Oh, and before I forget, have you checked out the Search all contacts window? Pretty neat, eh?
  • Quality of the VoIP calls: Indeed the quality of the VoIP component in GTalk is at the same level as Skype. No need to say much more on this one. Just that if it keeps it this way, voice quality wise, it would become a very strong competitor against other VoIP clients.
  • Integration with GMail: Yes, I saw that one coming through, even a new GNotifier option embedded into the IM client, a la MSN. I wouldn’t be surprised that there would be many more integrated features with some of the other Google offerings. And since there seems to be this hype on everything Google does it would probably become the largest success factor of the IM client: its integration with other offerings.
  • Blocking end-users and Privacy options: Indeed, so that you can decide with whom and when you would like to get interrupted. Best part is how easy it is to set up those options and just with a single right click.
  • Talking to other IM clients: This is probably one of the items that I will surely be looking forward in future releases. Although it can be configured to get connected using other IM clients I would actually be looking forward to seeing a future version able to talk to other IM clients, using Open Source protocols, like it has been indicated here or like it has been indicated all over the place in relation to the SIP protocol. This, indeed, is one of those items that could get Skype in big trouble, since we all know that Skype does not use the SIP protocol but a proprietary protocol, therefore at some point in time GTalk may overcome it and become the industry leader in VoIP / IM. That same leadership that Skype seems to be enjoying at the moment, and for quite some time now.

    Ok, now with the things that I was not so pleased about and that I hope they get addressed in future releases.

    Things I don’t like about GTalk:

  • Lack of security: At least, that is what can be read from this particular weblog post: How To Get Talking With Google. As far as I can see if it is not shown anywhere in its homepage then there is a good chance it is not there at all in the first place. And in this case this seems to be correct.

    I strongly believe that this is actually one of the very few issues that would kill Google Talk if it is not addressed at some point. I know we are all worried if our VoIP / IM calls are encrypted or not and secure enough or not, so knowing that, at least, at this point in time GTalk does not offer that it would make people think about it twice before joining the hype, specially when some other so far much more powerful competitors offer that capability as a standard. We shall see what happens in future versions.

    Note: On the other hand, things may not be that easy. According to this other weblog post, Google does seem to encrypt IM messages. And that is just great, but what about the Voice messages? Nothing mentioned on that subject and till I don’t see it written down elsewhere I doubt it would really reach a nice momentum with a good enough critical mass to be at the same level as other VoIP clients. We shall see.

  • Yet again another Beta offering: Indeed, I think that Google is probably one of the very few large companies that has got more Beta products than actual offerings. I think they should change their name to Google Beta or something of the sort. While I can certainly understand the logic behind the so many betas available I doubt it could afford having always that kind of reputation for such an overhyped company as it is today. Besides always using the excuse of a Beta client does seem to provide the message that there is a lack of commitment and making things right at some point, so if it is a Beta and something goes wrong, nothing to worry about. It is just a beta. I wonder how long Google can afford to keep that Beta flavour. Forever ? Let’s hope not.
  • Not enough featured rich VoIP / IM client: Indeed, I can certainly understand that this is the first release of, hopefully, many more versions, There are a number of different key features that I am missing from this particular VoIP / IM client but mainly Sending files, a VoIP interface to regular landlines, not just from PC-to-PC, which is what is currently available (All major VoIP clients already offer this with some very good rates so there is some catch up to be done), etc.. I was somehow expecting a bit more than just what it is currently available. Another good example to add to the previous ones would be rich text functionality, a la GMail, that is just not there, at least, not yet, etc.
  • Lack of search capabilities: Indeed, unless you know the GMail e-mail address from somebody or through your contacts list in GMail there is no way to find out more people to talk to. Any decent VoIP / IM client has got this option available and it just looks like Google wanted to make it personal and leave it as personal.
  • Inability to host group chats / calls: Again picking up on the previous sentence about wanting to keep it personal, I think in this case they have gone to the extreme, because right now it is not possible to have a group chat of any kind or a voice group chat. This, I would think, is one of the main issues I can think of that would make it not to have much acceptance with large distributed groups that are supposed to get together and share information remotely in real-time. I do hope that this will change otherwise it would be a no go for me to keep on using it extensively with other groups if this functionality is not put together.

    Ok, so that was it. A rather long weblog post, I know, to share some of my experiences on what I think GTalk is like and what it will need to do to be at the same level of other VoIP / IM competitors. You may be wondering what I would be doing myself with this new client, right? Well, not much initially, as I am planning to continue using externally Skype, to me, the one VoIP / IM client that sets the standards and the one that needs to be beaten from all the different options available out there. However, just in case you may want to give GTalk a try with me you can always find me at the same address that is included in my weblog template under the E-Mail and Skype section.

    Also if you are looking for another interest comparison between GTalk and Skype check out the following weblog post: Google Talk vs Skype. A really good reading that would give you a good overview of where both stand and how they may progress in the near future.

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