Googlers seem to be spending all their time developing the Google Talk service on the Gmail section of it. Garett Rogers (ZDNet) and Ionut Alex Chitu (Google Operating System) have so far picked up on the story.
It is now possible, only in Gmail at the moment, to set your status as “Invisible” like other IM services. You can see which of your contacts are online and available for chat without them knowing that you are available. That is, unless they’ve also discovered the new invisibility feature (in which case neither of you will see each other).
So, here’s the status menu entry to turn it on:
And here’s the sidebar with the function active:
Ionut at Google Operating System has also rooted out a problem with the current implementation: Using the Talk client or gadget (or other client that does not support invisibility) at the same time as Gmail chat will disable the feature until you sign out of that other client. Also, there is some question in the comments to that post as to whether Google implemented its own invisibility mode or actually implemented an XMPP specification for such a feature. Good question; I freely admit, I don’t know how to make such a determination.
I do like this feature, though. I might actually keep chat turned on now. The desire for invisibility has been a very cool flame burning in me, and it never occurred to me to suggest it. I’m glad it’s being implemented.
Now if only Google would update the downloadable client once in a while. I mean really! Have the source code files been destroyed or something? Are they trying to make users mad? I personally prefer to keep my chat out of the browser and in a separate program, but with all these new features and no support in the client, that’s becoming less and less practical. Grr!
Update (02/26): The Offical Gmail Blog finally made its post last night, 2008-02-25.