Why Gmail Video Chat Is Important

For some of us, a video icon in Gmail's chat sidebar might not be such a biggie. However, looking at the bigger picture, Gmail's new video chat feature reiterates Google's struggle to catch up with its bigger competitors, the likes of Microsoft Live Mail and Yahoo Mail.

Even though Google basically revolutionized personal webmail four years ago when it launched with 1GB of storage space, Gmail is still far behind competition when it comes to numbers. According to the latest ComScore figures, Gmail is only the third-largest email service worldwide, with 113 million users, while Microsoft Live mail is on top with 283 million users, closely followed by Yahoo Mail with 274 million.

In a bid to gain a larger user base, Google rolled out integrated video and audio chat feature for Gmail. To find out how it works exactly, check out my colleague's JR Raphael piece.

But what's so special about video and audio chat in Gmail? Surely others do video or chat better... Well, the difference is that both Microsoft and Yahoo offer video and audio chat with their instant messaging services but it’s not integrated with their webmail platform. Also, Skype is another popular video calling application, but its offering is limited only to that.

Google's approach to Gmail is different in many ways. Video and audio chat is built-in into Gmail together with regular text chat, making your inbox a central point of communications, instead of having to open various windows and applications at the same time. Gmail video chat is almost universal, working with most browsers on both PCs and Macs.

Gmail's new video and audio calling feature definitely sets aside Google's email service from competition. Now a one-stop communications hub, Gmail will certainly become ever more popular among both email and avid chat users. While other upcoming (or delayed) features such as SMS Chat in Gmail will again raise the bar against competition, Google's Android based mobile phones could also help increase Gmail's popularity.

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