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Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Gmail’s New Chat History

Gmail aka Google Mail has a new section called “Chats.” It immediately draws your attention because of the little speech bubble icon. What it does at this moment is that it allows you to save your Google Talk chat history – but you first need to enable this setting.

Even when you enable chat history*, you can click the options arrow in the top-right corner of any chat window and select “Off the record” so the talk won’t be logged. (The Google help on this says you need to “Click Options in the bottom-left corner of the chat window”... either that’s an error or they are talking about a different Google Talk version).

I think all in all this is an interesting feature. Other IM clients allow you to save chat logs too, but Google does it in a “webified” way. But even though it’s optional, it reminds you to take good care of whatever you say, wherever you say it... ’cause the Google memory is quite long-lived. An interesting bit on the side: even though there are no ads in Google Talk (yet), Google says it might displays ads next to the chat history, something similar to what they’re doing with emails.

A second Gmail chat feature is only announced, but not yet released; a service allowing you to chat right within Gmail, in your browser. Google in their Gmail chat FAQ explains their intentions for releasing this feature:

“Communications these days can be frustrating. You exchange a bunch of emails with someone when really, you’d rather just get an answer instantly. You use one program for your email, and another one (or two or three) for IM. You can’t remember who said what to you where. And sometimes you can’t even remember who wallaby385 in your buddy list is.

Gmail’s chat features address a lot of these problems. You don’t have to use another program or switch between email and IM – it’s all on the same interface. The friends you’re already emailing the most show up in your Quick Contacts as themselves, not the cryptic IM names they chose six years ago.”

*Why Google brands this thing using two different words – “chat” and “talk” – will probably remain a secret...

[Thank Spencer H., Orli Yakuel, Reto Meier, Jack, Simon R., Henrique G, Markus Renschler, Anon, Niraj Sanghvi, Wouter Schut and Eric.]


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