VoIP Systems

Google Gets Orkut Users Talking

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) will soon announce that its Google Talk instant messaging and VOIP service will be built into its social networking site Orkut, Google's version of MySpace.

The company says its Google Talk and Orkut development teams are busy putting the finishing touches on the integration. The announcement will likely be made sometime next week.

The significance? While entire companies have been started just to promote voice over IP (VOIP) applications, Google is increasingly convinced that communications capabilities like those offered by Google Talk are features, not standalone apps.

Blending two services such as instant communications and social networking was a no-brainer. "We noticed that a lot of people that were using Orkut also had their GTalk client open at the same time," says Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne. (See AOL/Google: VOIP Buddies .)

Orkut members will be able to text message and voice chat with other members of the community if they choose to communicate in that way. Google believes the new functions might add a sense of immediacy to member interaction on the social networking site.

A Google spokeswoman says some of the functionality of the Orkut site will be built into the free standing GTalk client. Orkut "friends" (and their "presence" status and information) will show up on GTalk users' buddy lists.

Google has already integrated GTalk with its email, word processing, and spreadsheet applications, and this latest move only furthers the idea that VOIP, on its own, is no big deal. (See Google Launches Apps.)

"In typical Google fashion, we started out building GTalk out as a downloadable application," Mike Jazayeri, Google Talk's product manager told Light Reading in September. "With GTalk we want to build a real-time communications infrastructure that enables new user scenarios in other applications." (See Google: Resistance Is Futile...)

Orkut is similar to other social networking sites like MySpace.com and Facebook.com. Roughly 30 million people worldwide have registered as Orkut members. Most of them live in Brazil (63 percent), while the proportion of American users is said to be growing (14 percent today).

By comparison, the social networking site du jour, MySpace.com, features roughly 130 million user accounts.

Unlike most other popular social networks, new users need to be invited by an Orkut member to join. Orkut launched in 2004. And, in case you were wondering, "Orkut" is the first name of the Turkish Google engineer who designed the site.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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