Has the Google Talk desktop client been abandoned?

I’ve been using the Google Talk application for years. It’s a lightweight Instant Messaging client that was built upon open standards and doubles as a pretty good Gmail notifier. My reason for not using another Yabber client like Miranda was that that wouldn’t allow voice chat, which I often use professionally.

Things turned a little ugly when Google decided to add a web-based gtalk ‘gadget’ to Gmail. All of a sudden I found myself being logged into the same account twice, with messages popping up in either the web or the desktop client without any sort of logic. I was quick to disable the Gmail gadget, but yesterday’s announcement of ‘Google Talk voice and video chat‘ had a big surprise in store for me. It’s a web-client-only feature.

In my opinion, Gmail is the best email client, bar none. I use it not just for the convenience of being able to log into your email anywhere, but mainly for it’s superior features and usability. The gtalk gadget is an altogether different beast. It too can be accessed anywhere, but it’s nowhere near as convenient as the desktop client. New chats don’t pop up automatically, there’s no way to have the contact list pop out and you need to keep a browser window open all the time to avoid being logged out.

Up until yesterday it also lacked features when compared to the Windows app, but now the one killer feature that both lacked is available only in the web client. And it works very well. I had a little trouble getting it to use the right microphone, but once that was sorted I was able to video chat with a friend in a noticeably better image quality than for instance Skype has to offer. Audio also seemed a bit better, and the interface is as clean as we’ve come to expect from Google.

So, will video chat eventually be added to the desktop application as well, or is Google forcing us to use the chat gadget? Has the desktop client been abandoned? It hasn’t gotten any new features in ages and there are no Mac or Linux versions. On top of that, the new video feature was been built using Flash, which probably makes it harder to incorporate into an application since Flash is very much a web technology. And will they add file transfer to the gadget?

** UPDATE **

As it turns out, there are even more options when it comes to Google Talk. There is an iGoogle ‘gadget’ that pops out, but that does not have the video chat option. Here’s a little overview:

FeatureWindows applicationGmail gadgetiGoogle gadget
Instant messagingYesYesYes
Video chatNoYes (Mac/Windows only)No
Voice-only chatYesYesNo
File transferYesNoNo
Group chatNoYesYes?
Start with WindowsYesNoNo

Am I the only one to find this a bit confusing?

21 Comments

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong
    but since adobe AIR, it’s very easy to go offline with Flash.

    Another thing, I do believe their will update google talk.
    But there are other options available like digsby, without loosing any contacts.
    It also doesn’t incorporate voice\video chat, but it sends you to a website that does, and it’s very easy.

    Comment by altryne — November 13, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  2. Google is making a big push for web 2.0 server-based apps so that they can compete with Microsoft Office. It’s obvious they’re still interested in the desktop due to their recent work on Chrome, though maybe only as a window into the web. Still, you’d think that with their 20,000 engineers one of them would have enough time to tweak the Gtalk client a little.

    Comment by Brian — November 13, 2008 @ 7:22 pm

  3. You are correct! I found your blog post because I was searching on Google about this specific problem/challenge I am experiencing! I want to keep using the Google Talk standalone application, but it seems that they’re letting the standalone application fall behind in terms of feature set.

    Comment by Paulman — November 13, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

  4. use this as a notifier for gmail and google apps
    http://gmailnotifier.net

    Comment by sam — November 13, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

  5. @altryne: Yeah, with AIR it shouldn’t be too hard to create a hybrid version that can run as a desktop app as well. The iGoogle Gladget already is Flash…

    @Brian: You’d think that maintaining three separate versions would actually cost more effort…

    @sam: There are tons of notifiers (in fact I think Miranda can so it as well), but that’s only part of the convenience of running a real app as opposed to a web client.

    Comment by Roy — November 14, 2008 @ 10:51 am

  6. No kidding it’s confusing. I also came here from a search on this very topic.

    My instinct is that Google Talk is dead, dead, dead.

    So the real question is whether we should go with Gmail notifier or accept the Google toolbar with a gadget.

    What we REALLY need is a slender notification manager installed on Windows that talks to a centralized Google (and other) web based notification service with rules we can manage via a web interface.

    Gmain notifier was last updated 3/21/2006. That’s pretty stale.

    So I’m going to go down the gadget path for now — that seems to be where Google’s energy is at the moment.

    Comment by John Faughnan — November 14, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

  7. Maybe Google Talk is dead, but I don’t think so. Will see. :)

    Comment by tyT — November 15, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

  8. I am confused about gtalk client as well! It’s like gtalk is heading all sorts of different directions and no single team or project leader is responsible for this project. I am a big fan of gtalk and i force my company to migrate to gtalk for Corporate IM app, and i really hope google spent more resource on gtalk.

    BTW, group chat feature only available in web gadgets only, the desktop version does not support multi-ppl group chat.

    Comment by Chris — November 18, 2008 @ 6:15 am

  9. I was wondering the same thing. I´m not a big fan of emoticons, but it is weird the fact of not having them on the desktop client. It is also nice to drag and drop files to the client to send them to somebody else. I don’t use voice on gtalk nor video, havent tried since i use skype most of the time, but it would be nice if they released an update for Google Talk featuring these new functions.

    Comment by algarcia — November 18, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

  10. I like gtalk and am using it everyday for business, to me, its power primarily lies on its interconnection with gmail, it is hard for Gtalk team to support all features at a time. Video is big for you but not big for me, so I have no complaints. By the way, its voice quality is darn good!

    Comment by voip — November 23, 2008 @ 3:03 am

  11. Yeah, I’m a little confuse as well when it comes to this matter.
    And I really thought that GTalk is dead.
    I hope that they can incorporate all the best features into one or have it all in all the applications.
    Just a thought.

    Comment by Azam — November 24, 2008 @ 10:46 am

  12. I agree. I think it’s poor product planning to make three applications that seem to do the same thing, but don’t. That adds unnecessary complexity that I, as a user, find extremely frustrating.

    I like the dekstop client ’cause it’s lightweight, unobtrusive, and I don’t have to start my browser to use it. Browser-based chat is not something I care for. But for years now, it seems, Google has been lavishing the Talk gadget and Talk in Gmail with new features, while the desktop client has been left in the cold. Group chat? Nothin’. Emoticons? No. AIM chat? Nuh-uh. And now, video chat? Pff, you’re kidding, right?

    I’ve written to Google about this through their “suggest new features” link, but I don’t really expect one measly little complaint will make much difference. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a little more complaint across the blagosphere. Interweb. Blagoblag?

    Comment by Spencer — November 26, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

  13. i also am confused, and i even find myself with the gmail gadget, igoogle gadget and my desktop client all fighting to accept messages from my friends.

    i really wish i knew where google was heading with this i convinced many of my friends to use gtalk as i stopped using msn months ago and when they hear of all these great new features that are not available on their desktop they wonder why did they switch when msn has so much more features, and its been so long since google has done anything with the desktop client.

    also what about gtalk lab’s edition, i thought that would have eventually been the next generation of the desktop client and its running on AIR so i thought that was in sync with google’s direction. However that too seems to be at a stand still and only the web client is getting attention.

    is gtalk dead, i hope not but the actions of google say dead. so i go with that.

    Comment by kroikie — November 26, 2008 @ 10:17 pm

  14. There is the Google Talk Labs Edition: http://www.google.com/talk/labsedition/

    Which inevitably means Google transferred their work on the regular Google Talk client over to the Flash client, it has a few of the extras like Gmail, GCal and Orkut notifications but it’s really just the iGoogle gadget (when the iGoogle gadget updates it updates) so more or less we’ve got to wait for Google to add video/voice chat and file transfers to the iGoogle version before you’ll see another Google Talk desktop client.

    I wonder why Google didn’t add video and voice chat to the Flash client earlier being that Flash has built in microphone and camera support.

    Comment by Hugh Isaacs II — December 2, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

  15. Wow, I hadn’t even heard of the ‘Labs Edition’. I just installed it on my Vista box, but it seems this one does not support audio or video chat? But it does allow for group chat? Now they’ve really lost me…

    Comment by Roy — December 3, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  16. We have enough on the desktop. Google guys are really smart by bringing them all on to the browser. Email, doc, spreadsheet, calender, chat, video … I feel like their agenda is … Browser only OS… all others are on the cloud.

    Smart … lets wait.. lets see how chrome evolves

    Comment by rathish — December 20, 2008 @ 11:37 am

  17. I agree, what the hell. Google talk Really needs to be developed into a full fledged voice-phone-app to kill off that skype sh**t.

    @rathish: “We have enough on the desktop. Google guys are really smart by bringing them all on to the browser. Email, doc, spreadsheet, calender, chat, video … I feel like their agenda is … Browser only OS… all others are on the cloud.”

    Oh yeah… let’s make an OS inside a browser and then we can have an empty desktop! !!

    Comment by kabanga — February 13, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

  18. I”m concerned about Google Talk being abandoned, I’m afraid it’s in favor of Chat Gadget, Google Voice and Google Wave… so we’re losing point to point instant messaging and file transfers. I liked Gtalk because it has a small memory footprint and starts with windows so I’m immediatetely in touch with friends.

    I don’t like using it in browser, because of the way I work with my browser, and many other reasons.

    Comment by Webmancers — August 4, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  19. I came across this blog post in search of a desktop notification for the iGoogle chat gadget – or something of Google that can keep you ‘logged in’ and receive email and chat notifications (and google apps, buzz, etc – should be configurable), but outside of and independent of the browser. So you could log into this application and receive the notifications real-time, without having your browser open.

    I would like to see this.

    Comment by coloredearth — May 4, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

  20. I agree…
    My browser is for internet browsing…
    hence the term browser!

    My desktop is for helpful little “bing! you have a new message” popups.

    Don’t combine the two!

    Comment by Steve — December 1, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

  21. I just started to use Google Talk, because someone else wanted to use it – I don’t get it, how can in possible work in the browser, can’t see how it pops out or is any way useful.

    Comment by Chris Barnard — December 8, 2011 @ 2:10 pm