Gmail Voice and Video Chat - Too Little too Late?

Today Google released a plug-in to allow Debian-based distros video and chat capabilities through Gmail accounts. Two years after the Windows and Mac releases, one has to wonder if it might be too little too late.

Google chat packages are available for Ubuntu (and possibly other Debian-based distros) with RPMs slated for the future possibly for openSUSE, Fedora, and Mandriva. The browser plug-in is built using mostly Web standards such as XMPP, RTP, and H.264. Interested users can download the plug-in here.. Once downloaded, quit all browsers and install the plug-in. Next sign into your Gmail account and look for a camera icon beside your contact's name. You can then click on "Start Video Chat" to begin using the service. Even if your friend doesn't have a camera, Google states you can still have voice chat.

After waiting two years for the service, most Linux users that want video chat capabilities are probably already using Skype or something similar by now. The next few weeks will tell for sure, but this service may not be of much interest to Linux users anymore anyway.


Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of


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Having not used Google Voice

bng44270's picture

Having not used Google Voice and Video chat on Linux, take this for what it's worth, but having a solution that is totally integrated with the web browser is invaluable. And now with the addition of phone calls (again, not sure if that's in the Linux version) this is a total no brainer over Skype.

Good information

wooden rosaries's picture

they work perfectly on google chrome!

Gmail Voice Chat

JeloRoc's picture

It doesn't even work. I just saw the pop-up in my Gmail so I downloaded, installed it and reloaded my browser (Chrome) and when I dial a number all I get is a voice saying "We could not complete your call, please try again." It comes instantly as I click the 'call' button...there is no pause or ring. Although it being free even to landlines and mobile phones in the U.S. is attractive it's a pointless feature if it doesn't even work. I think I'll stick with Skype!

Not late at all..

Gumball's picture

I come at Susan's article from the angle of an Android 2.1 phone user, where Skype is not presently supported across the entire platform. It only has selective use in the UK and USA through particular mobile networks.

Not being able to use Skype on my HTC Desire is a damn nuisance, however, after trialling Google Voice & Video, I think I might be making a permanent switch away from Skype.

From my perspective, all of Google's tools work great on the HTC, and Gmail (and all the other hangers on including GTalk, Calendar, iGoogle etc) are easy to configure and dovetail nicely when at work/home on the laptop, or out being a road warrior with the HTC.

Google Voice & Video Chat installs as a local DEB file, but is in fact a Web Browser Plug In, and integrates seamlessly on my LM Isadora Firefox browser environment.

Skype seems to be more of a walled garden these days, and the relationship they had with Fring is now no longer (not supported), and even worse, you can't even delete your Skype account off the Net! In perpetuity seems to be an apt phrase.

So if people thought that Skype For Linux 2.1 took an age to land, expect an even longer delay for a complete transition to Android 2.x.

Google Voice & Video Chat? IMO, it's a well timed entry indeed!

i think the support came too

arturo's picture

i think the support came too late. i don't know why there is not too much support for linux user, i thought linux was growing on the desktop world .

voice broadcasting

crlsgms's picture

Even too late, its a plugin that could be avaiable earlier. Skype for linux still sux, and the lack of support for professional audio systems as jack leaves some people that have to use skype / gtalk to radio / live interviews with very few options.

Ok, one can use some on-the-go push to talk system that suports jack, but that leaves a catch 22, since in my case mostly i have to invite someone to interview via skype or gtalk, but cant have a pratical tool to put people online on the radio with little hassle.

let us hope that skype evolves, or some good programmer let us use skype or gtalk with jack like a charm.

I would like to say thank you

jorline's picture

I would like to say thank you to author of these articles on this site. I read all of these articles and i need to read some new articles. I've watched a video on youtube about this topic for now and i loved it. Also it is one of the rarely topic on this site.

See you on a new topic...

Why Google releases Linux last?

Luis Arce's picture

Event thought the audio and video chat where available before, using other clients like Empathy, the fact here is that Google always releases for Windows first. Some things get simultaneous releases in all platforms , but for some important projects the Linux version always comes last (Chrome for example).
I use Windows and Linux, and the fact that Linux always get the updates and new software last makes me really uncomfortable.

Why not release the source

Ken Lee's picture

If its for gmail, why not just release the source, and then I know if will work for my fedora 64 bit distribution instead of waiting and waiting for a build.

Dont wait

Anonymous's picture

Hi, Pidgin (

Sagi's picture


Pidgin ( supports Voice/Video chats for Google talk for a while.

Gmail Notifier for Linux

max's picture

Gmail Notifier for Linux please!

Hi Max, there are lots of

Felipe's picture

Hi Max,

there are lots of Gmail notifiers that, altough they are not official, make a great work. Check for "gmail-notify" in Gnome or kgmail-checker on KDE.


Hay thanks! I know that tehre

max's picture

Hay thanks!
I know that tehre are some good notifiers for Gnome/KDE. But Gmail Notifier for windows just rocks and I woulk like to see it on linux. Really don't know why Google always delays the linux releases of their programs.

Better late than never -

MikeH's picture

Better late than never - although still waiting on the RPM version so I can use it on Fedora. Regarding Skype - never used it; don't like the fact it isn't open. Just about everyone I know already uses gmail, so this will be very handy! Now if Google could just give us a Linux version of Picasa. I'm always concerned eventually it will stop working in Wine.

Just use digikam, it works

Anonymous's picture

Just use digikam, it works great! I use it to upload to flickr and picasa :)

Linux version of Picasa

Baird Carr's picture

Potentially messed with my TV streaming...

Anonymous's picture

Does anyone else have the issue of being unable to stream TV shows from some website, especially from megaupload streams, after installing this? Would this even affect that at all? It's just I've noticed that pretty much the exact same time I installed it.


Anonymous's picture

I thought Empathy already supported Google video chat? It's not integrated into the browser, but that's not necessarily a bad thing (Empathy is open source).

From the FAQ:

Does Empathy support audio and video chat with Google Talk?

Yes, you can have a audio or video chat on the Gtalk protocol with someone using Gmail's video chat feature, Empathy or Pidgin.

I have been using video/audio

António Manuel Dias's picture

I have been using video/audio chat from a gmail account in Ubuntu at least since de 9.10 release, through Empathy. So, I confirm it: it was already possible :)

Love it

Baird Carr's picture

First of all, it works perfectly in both my personal gmail account and my work Google Apps for Domains on both my laptop and work desktop.

Second, it is not too late at all. I'm in Gmail/Google Apps all day. I know I could use Skype for video chat in Ubuntu, but I would always boot into Windows on my laptop to video chat on Google Talk. It may be too little too late if most of your friends use a different email service and have Skype accounts, but for those who are heavily invested in Google services with all coworkers and most friends using Gmail, this is a huge relief.

Now the only reason to boot into Windows is to play games.

It doesn't *exactly* work as advertised

Doug.Roberts's picture

My domain, has it's mail hosted by google's gmail service -- my MX record for the parrot farm points to I installed the plugin, but (apparently because my email address does not end in "") I still have no video chat service.


Not just for Gmail accounts

Baird Carr's picture

Doug: Sorry, I should have replied to your comment.

I just wanted to let you know that it works for my company's Google Apps Account (not AND my personal Google Apps account. I had to restart my browser for it to work at first.

Restarting the browser did not work

Doug.Roberts's picture

Baird, it's good to know that it worked for you. Which browser are you using? I run Chrome.



Baird Carr's picture

I'm using Google Chrome as well, tested perfect on both my laptop and desktop...

I'll troubleshoot this weekend

Doug.Roberts's picture

Thanks for the feedback.


Hey Doug...

JShuford's picture

I do think that the plug-in is for GMail account's only; sorry. BTW: Nice birds!

...I'm not just a "troll", but also a subscriber!