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Google adds video and voice chat to Gmail

A man has his picture taken in front of Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2008. REUTERS/Kimberly White

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc added a voice and video chat feature to its Gmail email service on Tuesday, launching a free Web-based service that competes with the likes of eBay’s Skype.

Gmail and Google App subscribers can now choose to speak with friends on a video screen and simultaneously instant message them in a Google Chat box.

The video screen can be popped out of the chat box and moved around a user’s computer screen. Users can also change the size of the screen and expand it to full-screen size.

“The idea was to make it quicker and easier to communicate with other people by whatever means is best convenient,” said Google spokesman Jason Freidenfelds.

“It’s a nice alternative for businesses looking for another way for people to connect,” he added.

The feature is available for both PC and Apple computer users.

A webcam and small web browser plug-in are required to use the video chat. Users who do not have a webcam will still be able to chat with friends by voice.

Reporting by Jennifer Martinez; Editing by Brian Moss

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