Posted by: Diabolic Preacher | August 23, 2006

Gmail now plays music too

Google does understand that a huge proportion of email users are migrating to the invite-only GMail service and the target audience is slowly filling up with the general herd who’d expect all bloat n bones to exist in one place. So here’s an update on how far the most crude XMPP chat client has incorporated more and more of user experience enhancing features

The sequence of developments is roughly as follows: –

  1. Google Talk was released for the windows 2000/xp platform. What was really cool about it was that you need not have windows 2000/xp OS because Google didn’t want the consumer to suffer vendor lock-in and allowed users to connect with any Jabber compatible client. My choice was Gaim, since I could set it up to connect to yahoo n msn as well. As i later got to use the default google talk client (much later than i had used the embedded client inside gmail), I believe it’s the notification of mails and the window controls for entering username and password that required use of windows 2000/xp (esp. if u see the password character of google talk and yahoo messenger, you’d note the difference).One other special feature of google talk client that came right from the start and was not part of either of Jabber/XMPP standard was the VoIP service built into it. Ajay‘d want to talk with me but i was still in love (basically stuck with some kind of unexplainable stubbornness) with ME. As per Ajay, the VoIP client gave amazing voice clarity even at low connection speeds. Sidenote: VoIP is more optimized for voice chat/call than basic voice chat that was incorporated in yahoo right in its early days, since the protocol is dedicated to transferring voice.
  2. One requirement for using the google talk service was that the user should have a GMail account which gives him/her access to the google talk service. Even if you were a GMail user it was required of you to invite your GMail addresswala contacts explicitly to join you in the chat (invite is one-time process…but some friends make the reminding process multiple times buggin). Google used this requirement to the benefit of those users who were not on windows xp/2000, for people who’d like to chat from a public computer where installation of extra applications may not be permitted and for people who might be having a problem with installing/using 3rd party Jabber client software. They built the Google Talk client right into the Gmail interface, one of the coolest insta-responsive interface. Not forgetting their slow connection/incompatible browser users, they had still kept the existing 2 interfaces to GMail. so now there are standard, standard without chat and html interfaces. So this way users could choose to use the official client from right inside the browser and there is no need for any plugin of any sort, except that your browser should support java (if chat is to be enabled). The chat feature got implemented in phases.
  3. Soon after they made sure that the enormous mailbox disk quota per user was used to the user’s advantage by using this space to store chat transcripts/logs (with the user’s permission) and thus enabling the user to have anytime anywhere access to his/her past conversations. This is waayyyy better than the yahoo messenger message archiving option which stores chat logs in the Pc itself and thus doesn’t provide the anytime anywhere access. also if you don’t realise, the archiving option is turned off by default, so if you close the window, there is (by murphy’s law) a very high chance of you losing exactly that part of the conversation that could help you continue the conversation.
  4. I can’t tell for sure if this feature was added later on or was introduced with the embedding of the chat interface in the gmail site interface is that the conversations in chat got saved into your mailbox (if you allowed gmail to save your chats) no matter what client software/service you used. this gave more freedom to the user, less reason to be stuck with the chat client in gmail and a greater challenge to google for adding more user-appealing features πŸ™‚ . an example would be when u disabled chat in gmail due to slow connection and are using a browser-based chat client like meebo which does not save you chats if you don’t have a meebo login. Saving chat logs in gmail has another advantage and that is if a gmail user has sent you an email and while checkin mail you see that he/she is online, you may reply in chat and that conversation gets tacked onto the conversation thread started by the original email.
  5. Lately Google Talk has released a beta (testing version) of GTalk which showcases some of the features that have been incorporated by popular demand (or is it public demand?). This version has 3 new features that are immediately apparent are
    • File Sharing. P2P protocol is used to achieve maximum speed. This was a long awaited feature for most.
    • Voicemail. Now even if the recipient is not online and you feel talking is a better option than writing an offliner (which by any means is not supported by google talk) you could send a recorded message in their voicemail.
    • Ability to display the name of the current playing audio track on your PC, regardless of what media player you are using. This shows that google listens to frivolous feature requests as well. one thing special about this music detection module is that it detects songs played in windows media player while most others require a plugin to be downloaded for windows which requires you to prove you got a genuine copy n yada yada yada….endless hassles ending into no positive result. However I noticed that there was a length limit on the string which displayed the song title and most of the times if you use long descriptive tags (including album artist et al) for your songs more than half of it will be simply truncated.
  6. As of the time of writing this entry, Google has turned the aforementioned testing release into a public release version (pessimistically claimed as beta, just in case some users want to blame them for the bugs served out of nowhere πŸ™‚
  7. Had enough of new features? Thinkin’ that’s all a chat service should be doing or could possibly do? Google is constantly aiming to make the user rethink the possibilities of his simple html viewing web browser. Guess what? google has enabled a flash player into gmail itself so u could listen to your voicemails recorded by your google talk friends right inside your browser. For some more details look at here and here.
    Gmail audio player can play voicemails and mp3’s sent as email attachments. basically its the google video player that is used to play the audio file. if you know the location of an mp3 player on a remote server you could construct an URL as http://mail.google.com/mail/html/audio.swf?audioUrl=MP3_URL where MP3_URL is the url of the mp3 file hosted online. Playing files on remote servers using this method doesn’t even require you to login to gmail and hence doesn’t require you to even have a gmail account.

Never expect the list to be definite. Never expect Google to have stopped amazing you. Before finishing the post let me show you a few ways, you could connect to your friends on google talk: –

You’d need the official client to get access to any of the extra good features like new mail notifications, voip, voicemails, file sharing and current track detection πŸ˜€


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