Google is integrating its Google Talk/IM functionality into GMail. It doesn’t replace Google Talk (because there’s no VoIP yet). But it does:
- Potentially differentiate GMail
- Offer the first (that I know of) browser access to IM/chat
- Potentially expose more GMail users to Google Talk functionality and thus, longer term, potentially boost the Google Talk user base.
Chat "transcripts" are archived like mail and will be scanned like mail and contextually relevant ads will be served against them. More GMail usage = more page views, more ads and more clicks.
The presence awareness feature is a nice aspect of all this, as is the browser-based IM functionality. Here are the official FAQs.
According to Nielsen traffic data cited by MediaPost (reg. req’d):
Google’s e-mail service is the fourth most popular on the Web, but lags far behind the three market leaders — Yahoo, AOL, and MSN Hotmail … Gmail last month had 6.7 million users, compared to Yahoo Mail’s 50.7 million, AOL’s 34.3 million, and MSN’s 31.3 million. AOL’s instant messenger was the most popular IM service, wtih 52.8 million users — followed by MSN Messenger, with 27.2 million, and Yahoo Messenger, with 21.8 million.
Now that it’s live in my GMail account and I’ve had a bit of a chance to use it, I can say that the integration is very convenient and seems to work well. (Although it takes a little getting used to.)
Google’s running its own version of the "switch" campaign for e-mail.
Update: I was corrected by a reader that Yahoo! has had browser-based chat for some time, though not yet integrated into e-mail.