I think this flew under the radar for a few days for me before i fully appreciated how great a move this is for Google. I figure it will take about 6 months or 1 year before there’s an article in Time/Newsweek/Fortune about how great Google is for things like this (and maps, search, etc). First off, after search, Gmail is the only real application that i really like from Google.* It’s a great application – they really thought through how people use email and introduced some very nice features that i hadn’t seen on webmail services before, such as 1) threaded email messages – which appear that way in your inbox, 2) labels instead of folder – others still haven’t caught on to the subtle difference, 3) unlimited storage, 4) Unlimited session time – no need to sign in every 20 minutes.
The last point, which i always took for granted, is the key to their new Google Chat. I didn’t know the power until they started building for a me a buddy list on my left-hand side. Then i started receiving IM’s from them (Google IM’s, that is). Whoa!
I’ve been using AIM for a decade now and although other IM clients are far superior, i didn’t think i’d see anyone overtaking it because of the network effect. What i didn’t realize is that Google is doing the smart thing by leveraging the fact that there’s a huge user base logged into Google all the time. Why not convert GMail into an IM client? AIM is adding on email.
Think how many companies could have done this before? Outlook knows everyone’s email. It could have built a buddylist in the side and allowed you to IM (using MSN Messenger technology) anyone in your address book who is also using Outlook or using MSN. That would have been huge.
My prediction is that Google Chat/Talk will become the #2 IM Network in 2 years. AIM will hang on b/c it has all the youngsters already.
* Note: I have a bias against Maps because of my past relationship with Keyhole (which Google bought to make Google Maps).