I tried out Google Video Chat today with a co-worker in the same office as me. It was rumored by some that the client would establish a direct connection (peer-to-peer) between the two chatting parties but I don’t think one is. Instead I get the feeling all of the data is going to Google and then back to the other person in the chat which causes some noticeable lag times in rendering motion or changes in facial expression. While lag is fairly typical for most video chat solutions I’ve used in the past the amount I noticed in the Google client seemed excessive.
Audio transmission on the other hand seemed fine. My friend didn’t have a webcam but did have a mic so he was able to send just voice to me and it appeared on my speakers with only a minimal delay; had we not been in the same room it wouldn’t have been noticable. However, audio chat, without the video element, is fairly useless in general since I can just pick up the phone.
With that said I think the Google offering will only get better with time. Plus, if you are overseas and want to have some voice communication with a friend then using the audio-chat feature would be a good economical (free) choice.
Setup was a snap. I just had to install a browser plugin (works with pretty much every modern browser) and then restart my browsers. I didn’t have to make any configuration changes on my machine or identify my USB webcam, the chat plugin found it and activated it without issue.
Performance problems alone might be enough to deter many from using the client but I think it is worth keeping an eye on to see where it goes from here. I wouldn’t be surprised if an API comes out that lets other websites incorporate the Google Video Chat plugin in the future which would be a nice feature for many small business that couldn’t afford to provide live video support via other means.
Good post. I agree that it’ll get better. I just wonder how long it’ll be in beta (ha ha).