We were wondering whether they would come up with this feature. It is really great to have this feature in gmail specially since it would complete an almost perfect communication platform for gmail. However I recently decided to check this out.
Google launched their video chat (if my research is correct) on November 12, 2008. Which is 3 days ago (today is 15th). So it would be kind of unfair to judge this feature yet. But I couldn’t help noticing a few things here which might not make this video chatting feature popular as expected.
First and foremost thing is that you need to install some software for the web video chat to work. Which is a HUGE drawback. I mean users usually like if the the things are like “click and run” type. In here you need to download some installer and run it for the browsers to support the gmail video chat. And after the installation you need to restart the browsers too (which anyway you have to do if you made some changes relating to the browser). Nowadays users dont want to go to that length of trouble to just to let others see your face on the screen. Is this possible in a net cafe. Users may not have privileges you know.
Another one is that this feature requires both parties having the required software being installed. So it doesn’t matter if you go to any length of trouble to install the google video chat, you have to ask the other person in the other end which you want to video chat with to do the same. i have over 20-30 ppl generaly online in my chat list but non-of them had the feature installed yet (yeah i know, the feature just only got released, but u will see my point here), so i had to wait until who does have it installed to come online.
Another one of the drawbacks is that it still does not support linux. Main PC OS users around the world consists of windows and linux. We here in WSO2 being a great open source company uses mainly linux as our platform OS for our work. Its kind of annoying to see the message in the gtalk window saying that the OS does not support the video chat yet. Hopefully this problem will be fixed in near future.
So I finally managed to find someone who had the video chat feature installed. The video chat worked well for a couple of seconds and then “boom”, it stopped working. I’m not sure why the reason is, may its because I’m not directly connected to the Internet or I’m behind a router firewall, but the point is that this feature is not yet stable. They should have stress tested this in more scenarios. Very disappointing guys!!!.
There were few other things which I thought could have being an improvement but I guess those can be improved with the time. One of the curious question I had is that why google did not use the web cam support in the flash controls. Because one thing is that flash is generally used in browsers so often that its like a part of requirement for a browser to have the flash support. So you can expect the browser to have flash installed. Controlling the web cam through flash is very easy as I know. Users doesn’t have to install anything new and they can just have the functionality without having to install or click anything at all. And flash is there in all major browsers and platforms. Besides google uses flash controls in their “talk gadget”. My only reason for not using the flash control might be for security reasons, but I’m sure that can be handled also if you put some effort to it.
All in all I think its good that Google launched at least some form of a working video chat feature. The web has being lacking this functionality for sometime now.