While not very uncommon in the Google universe where products and services are in a perpetual state of beta, Google Talk sticks out like a sore thumb in contrast to the adoption and improvements other products have seen, such as Gmail (where frankly, the only thing missing is IMAP support and I’ll be a happy boy) and Google, the one search service to rule them all in the Web 2.0 world, that not so long ago implemented “integrated search results” where links, images and video all appear in the same search results page without having to go to Google Image Search and Google Video separately.
Google has made enough truckloads of money to cover acres and acres of land and sometimes I find myself asking if that has somehow made it into their heads, thinking dipping a foot and single-handedly stomping the competition at the already-saturated instant messaging market should be a piece of cake. What was it exactly that Google missed? Like every other one of their services, they did the obvious by using the existing accounts without having to require users to sign up independently for Gtalk, and thanks to Gmail, these days a Google account is about as ubiquitous as having a social security number. Later on Gtalk even got integrated into Gmail, but that didn’t help much. Gtalk also implemented making calls over the internet right from the beginning, hot in the heels of Skype and Yahoo doing the same thing. There was also lovin’ for the influential open-source community, in the form of Jabber support and libjingle. On paper, it seemed like the perfect plan to dethrone AIM, the mothership of all IM clients.
For one, we’re now seeing the results of the sticky situation that was choosing an IM client people faced back in the day. Actually there was no “choosing” to begin with; I was 11 when I first discovered the joy of IM, and I was on a crusade for the use of MSN Messenger, fought tooth and nail against Yahoo Pager, because I didn’t like the dated interface and weird-looking smileys (seriously). IM is no fun when you’re all by yourself and alas, I had to give in to the obsessed Yahoo crowd I was around with. Fast forward 11 years and here I am, still around the same set of people, still on Yahoo Messenger. I doubt that’s going to change soon – not for me, not for the MSN users in the U.S., not for ICQ/AIM users of the rest of the world.
Oh and another thing, the Gtalk interface is too spartan. People like their IM clients pink and fluffy and bloated with features that are never really put into everyday use (think of Live Messenger and AIM Triton).
Right when Gtalk seemed like a doomed project, best left for logging chat transcripts you want to keep records of, the big surprise: last this week we see Google getting ready to snap up the 700MHz band opened up in the U.S., up against Verizon and the others. Why would they want this, and what would Google do with it? TWiT 106 raises a very interesting and not-so-far fetched possibility: the “Google phone” rumors might actually be a set of applications designed to make over-the-internet calls. Now let me add to the conspiracy: remember GrandCentral acquisition just a few weeks back? The writing’s on the wall: the acquisitions and bids for more is extending Google’s hold into the communications market, and the instrument of doom: Gtalk. Hah!
My premonition: GrandCentral’s technology integrated into a wifi-enabled device, iPhone-looking with a button on the main screen labeled “Gtalk”. User pushes Gtalk button and makes a call – over the internet via the exclusive Google-owned spectrum untarnished by all other web traffic from the unregulated internet pipes. Lovely. When that day comes, we’ll all say goodbye to unreasonable air time rates.