Gchat: All the Cool Kids are Doing It

Google Communication is oh-so-the-fad and to not look like you are oh-so-old-school, you'd better jump on the bandwagon.
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My Gchat message one night was simple: "Writing an article for HuffPo on Gchat, any thoughts?" Within minutes people were sending me messages. "It's like AIM for our generation," one recent college graduate wrote. "We use it all the time at work...but don't tell anyone," said one friend who interned in a federal government office. Another senior congressional press secretary said, "It's a wonderful intra-office mode of communications for things that cannot be said out loud." A chief-of-staff for a New York State assemblyman loved Gchat because "Pretty much it's extreme organization and overall effectiveness as a business and personal tool puts AIM to shame (don't use that through; it rhymes)." In essence, Google Communication is oh-so-the-fad and to not look like you are oh-so-old-school, you'd better jump on the bandwagon.

(Two notes before we go on. First -- a Gchat message is the tag line that appears under your name, which all your Gchat friends can read. Second -- Google has informed me that "Gchat" is not really a product name they use, for the chat feature is within "Gmail." They call it the "Google Talk Network," but to those of us not in Google-Land, "Google Talk Network" is two words to many, so we just say: "I will GChat you tonight"!)

Now, if those in middle school are addicted to AIM, those in college and the "real world" are addicted to Gchat. A writer for Vogue responds to my message saying "my editors at Vogue all Gchat during work." But then she continues with "My editors at Teen Vogue had AIM." Figures!

Another fashion writer and HuffPo contributor Zandile Blay will conduct interviews on Gchat and then post the entire transcript on her blog. As a "busy reporter" working on a "busy subject," she loves the simplicity and ease of the program. "It doesn't suck up time as much as in-person interviews, and unlike phone interview, you don't have to bother with transcribing or taking notes," Blay tells me over -- you guessed it -- Gchat. "Best of all, I think it's a format that readers really respond to. Chat interviews are a win, win all around."

But, for those in journalism and politics, it seems like everyone who is anyone can be spotted on Gchat at all hours of the day and night. See a source on Gchat and simply ping him or her for a quote (no need to call and wake up the house). Journalists have put down their notebooks and recorders for the sleek, easy-to-use method of "Gchatting" for an interview. After all, if you don't want your conversation to be saved (because they all are) click the button that says "Off the Record." Now, if that is not journo-poli communication lingo, I don't know what is!?

Those who use Gmail will realize that in the past few weeks there have been new additions to the platforms, including being able to have a group chat and expressing your emotions through faces. Google spokesperson Jason Freidenfelds told me, in an interview over Gmail (duh), "We really aim in our simple, clean design and very user-feedback-focused development process, to make our products easy to use for everyone." And when I ask him who uses Gmail, it seems no shock to him that those in politics and the media fit into his user description: "We appeal to people who are very active, enthusiastic communicators." And thus, on any given moment, quotes are being exchanged and information is being shared that you might read about in tomorrow's blogs or newspapers.

"The observation that Google Talk users are plugged in and savvy certainly doesn't hurt our position, as the communications tool of choice, for the top influencers this political season," Freidenfelds says. "We're proud to be building tools that are as useful for the hardcore Technorati bloggers and political aspirants as they are for the everyday users they're reaching out to."

Our very own Rachel Sklar -- whose been spotted by Gawker on Gchat here -- told me a few months ago that "Gchat is like a secret that users get -- it's different than IM. I love Gchat because I can work in e-mail and still be in chat. So convenient." But on December 4, 2007 Google listened to Rachel (and probably a few other people) by integrating AIM. Now you can chat with all your AIM buddies right inside Gmail, opening up the awesomeness and trying not to become "cool by exclusion."

Eileen Starrett is in her early 20s and addicted to anything "G." She works at a law firm and says Gchat is "the greatest invention ever because I can interrupt an e-mail." Her boyfriend works at a major bank and they write e-mails back and forth during the day. But, if they are in the midst of an e-mail fight, "I see him on Gchat and I get to snipe in real time," she says. This is "rather than with a delay a.k.a. the time it takes for him to come up with a witty e-mail response." When we chatted, Eileen and her boyfriend were in a fight and the boyfriend was using his work e-mail to avoid Gchatting. She sent him a simple e-mail: "Sign into Gmail. Don't be a wuss."

And, while Google might not have created Gmail with the intent of being used as a medium for rocky relationships, it certainly wants the flow of communication to be easy. "Google Talk is the more general initiative that aims to integrate real-time communication into all kinds of applications in many different places," Freidenfelds says. Google Talk encompasses not only Gmail Chat (integrated chat inside Gmail), but Google Talk (the desktop client that standalone client users can download; handles voice calls and file transfers too), mobile devices (there is a Google Talk client for Blackberry, and it's also available on the Sony mylo personal communicator and the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet), Orkut (the social networking site, which also has an integrated Google Talk feature) and Google Talk Gadget (a web-based chat module which can plug into your own website; can display previews of YouTube videos and Picasa Web Albums).

Welcome to GCommunications. And in the ever-changing world of media, expect these few words to become more common after someone is quoted: "...said via Google Chat" (see last quote here).

For more information, check out the official Gmail blog here.

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