Since it burst onto the scene a few years ago, Skype has been the ‘Kleenex’ of Internet telephony, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Photo: Google

Now, Google has sprung up as a potentially serious competitor, launching a new free plug-in that adds voice and video to its GMail chat service. It works with Windows XP and Vista, but versions for other operating systems are anticipated in the not too distant future.

For full two-way Google video chat, both parties will have to have Web cams and microphones as well as the new plug-in installed. The plug-in allows users with cameras broadcast their images to other users who don’t have cameras (a one-way video chat) and either side can choose to use audio chat only.

A new ‘camera’ icon will appear next to their names of users in your Contacts list who have the video chat plug-in installed.

Get the Google Voice and Video Chat plug-in at its official Web page.

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