RealTime IT News

Google Gets Gaim Guy

It shouldn't be surprising that Google aggressively goes after the best talent in the business. Google's nascent IM business is apparently no exception.

To that end, Google has hired the lead developer of the Gaim instant messaging project, one of the most popular open source projects on the planet, to help its IM development.

Sean Egan publicly broke the news on the Gaim Web site this week, revealing that he has been working in Google's Seattle office for a month and a half on the company's Google Talk IM application.

"Currently, I'm working on making it as easy as possible for other clients to use Google Talk's voice features," Egan wrote in a post.

Gaim is a multi-protocol, multi-platform instant messaging client that accesses the MSN Messenger, AOL AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu and Zephyr networks and runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.

Gaim is routinely among the most active open source projects on the SourceForge.net open source repository and routinely holds the No. 1 spot as the most active project on the site.

While Microsoft and Yahoo are now actively developing a way for their respective networks to interoperate, Gaim already provides its users with a way to manage multiple IM networks in one client.

Radicati Group analyst, Matthew Anderson considers the hiring of Gaim's lead developer to be a significant move by Google.

"I think it is very important, as Google constantly talks of wanting to push interoperability and keeping things open in the IM market," Anderson told internetnews.com. "I think Egan will definitely be important for Google to reach these goals of interop."

The big question about interoperability is whether Google will make use of Gaim to create a Google-branded Gaim client that aggregates MSN, AOL, Yahoo and Jabber networks into its own Google Talk client. Such a move could leapfrog Google past its competition.

"If Google did happen to make use of a Google-branded Gaim-like product, I think it would definitely help them to break into the market," Anderson said. "As of now, it seems the barrier still exists, for Google why would any user commit to yet another IM network when the other big three still do not interoperate?"

The Google Talk beta currently in release is based on the Jabber protocol, though it currently doesn't talk to non-Google Jabber servers. A Google Gaim client would extend Google Talk beyond the Jabber protocol.

"If Google were to release a client that allows users to log onto MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Google Talk, and other networks, there would definitely be appeal to IM users," Anderson said.

The next version of Gaim is already expected to benefit from Google-sponsored activity.

Google sponsored 15 projects at Gaim as part of the Google Summer of Code initiative.

Participating developers were to receive $4,500 for the summer's work and Gaim was to receive $500 for each coder it mentored.

According to Egan's post on the Gaim Web site, the feature freeze for version 2.0 will occur at the end of October with the release expected next month November.