Free calling in Gmail extended through 2011

(Cross posted from the Gmail blog)

When we launched calling in Gmail back in August, we wanted it to be easy and affordable, so we made calls to the U.S. and Canada free for the rest of 2010. In the spirit of holiday giving and to help people keep in touch in the new year, we’re extending free calling for all of 2011.

In case you haven’t tried it yet, dialing a phone number works just like a regular phone. Look for “Call phone” at the top of your Gmail chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

To learn more, visit Calling in Gmail is currently only available to U.S. based Gmail users.

Happy New Year and happy calling!

Posted by Robin Schriebman, Software Engineer

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How to send chats (and 50 other things you might want to teach your parents)

When I first saw a green dot by my dad’s name in the chat box, I was excited to finally be able to chat with him rather than pick up the phone or send an email. I messaged him a few times, but never got a response. It wasn’t until I went home for the holidays and asked him why he never answered that I found out that he always saw my messages, but really had no idea how to go about sending or responding to chat messages them.

With a bit of tutoring and practice, my dad has become quite the master chatter, messaging me at all hours of the day, telling me to go to bed at night and asking me if I’ve gotten enough sleep in the morning.

We at Google love using technology in our daily lives and want to share that with our loved ones so we can connect whether we’re right next door or hundred of miles apart. is a site we’ve created to send basic how-to videos to our families. Here’s a video I created on how to use chat:

For more videos or to send videos to your loved ones, visit Have a safe and happy holidays!

Posted By Allen Huang, Associate Product Manager

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Santa’s calling (from his Google Voice number)

Growing up, December was always a favorite month of mine. School would let out for two weeks, snowflakes would start falling and I’d write my letter to Santa to remind him that I’d been especially good that year (and ask if he’d mind bringing me a few Ninja Turtles). He never answered those letters—he’s a busy guy, after all—but what if he could pick up the phone and call me instead? What if Santa had Google Voice and could easily call all the kids on his list?

Well, this year he can—with your help. If you know a kid (of any age) who’d like to hear from Santa, create and send a personalized phone call from the jolly man in the red suit himself at

There are hundreds of options to choose from, so you can send unique, customized phone calls to anyone you know, from your nieces and nephews to old college friends, over the phone (to U.S. numbers only) or via email, Facebook or Twitter.

If you or your kids have a special request or message for Santa, you can leave him a message at his Google Voice number: 855-34-SANTA. Although he’s too busy to return messages himself, you can always create one on his behalf at the Send a Call From Santa site.

Ready to spread some holiday cheer? Listen to a sample message, and visit to send a message of your own.

And don’t forget—if you want to keep up with Santa as he travels around the globe delivering presents on Christmas Eve, you can track his journey on Google Maps, on Google Earth with the plug-in and on your mobile phone, too.

Posted by Michael Bolognino, Product Marketing Manager

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Call credits for military families this holiday season

(Cross-posted from the Google Voice blog)

Keeping in touch with family during the holiday season can be challenging for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for military families with loved ones serving around the country or overseas.

Gmail’s built in video chat and free calls to the U.S. and Canada can help keep friends and family in contact regardless of how far apart they may be. To make staying in touch this holiday season even easier for military families, we’re offering a $10 calling credit to help them reach their loved ones serving abroad.

These international call credits can be used to make calls with Google Voice or from right inside Gmail, and will provide families with roughly 30 minutes of call time to Afghanistan, 60 minutes to Iraq, or hundreds of minutes to many countries in Europe and around the world.

To make this possible, we’ve partnered with Blue Star Families and Sesame Street, two organizations dedicated to supporting service members and their families.

Photo by Sesame Workshop, 2010

To be eligible for $10 calling credits, military family members must:
  1. Be a member of either Blue Star Families or Sesame Street Family Connections — registration is free for all military families
  2. Provide their Gmail address
  3. Enable calling in Gmail and accept the terms of service OR have an existing Google Voice account
  4. Complete this registration form by December 22, 2010

We recognize the sacrifices military family members make when loved ones serve abroad, and we’re proud to help make it a little bit easier for families to stay connected over the holidays.

At this time, Google Voice and calling in Gmail are available in the U.S. only.

Posted by Michael Bolognino, Product Marketing Manager

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New in Labs: Video chat enhancements

(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

If you use video chat in Gmail, you might be interested in a new Labs feature we just rolled out that allows you to preview new video chat features before they're turned on for everyone. Visit the Gmail Labs tab under Settings, turn on "Video chat enhancements," and right away, you'll see higher resolution video and a bigger video chat window.

The higher resolution video uses a new playback mechanism which enables widescreen VGA and frees up valuable resources on your computer. For it to work, both you and the person you're chatting with will need to have the lab turned on. Remember that you can always revert to standard video chat by disabling the lab.

We plan to add more video chat enhancements to this lab in the future, so if you have it on you'll automatically get those too. Feel free to post your comments or report any issues you encounter in the video chat forum (we also follow #googlevideochat on Twitter).

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Call phones from Gmail

(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

Gmail voice and video chat makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family using your computer’s microphone and speakers. But until now, this required both people to be at their computers, signed into Gmail at the same time. Given that most of us don’t spend all day in front of our computers, we thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if you could call people directly on their phones?”

Starting today, you can call any phone right from Gmail.

Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year and calls to other countries will be billed at our very low rates. We worked hard to make these rates really cheap (see comparison table) with calls to the U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan—and many more countries—for as little as $0.02 per minute.

Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click “Call phone” at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

We’ve been testing this feature internally and have found it to be useful in a lot of situations, ranging from making a quick call to a restaurant to placing a call when you’re in an area with bad reception.

If you have a Google Voice phone number, calls made from Gmail will display this number as the outbound caller ID. And if you decide to, you can receive calls made to this number right inside Gmail (see instructions).

We’re rolling out this feature to U.S. based Gmail users over the next few days, so you’ll be ready to get started once “Call Phones” shows up in your chat list (you will need to install the voice and video plug-in if you haven’t already). If you’re using Google Apps for your school or business, then you won’t see it quite yet. We’re working on making this available more broadly - so stay tuned!

For more information, visit

Posted by Robin Schriebman, Software Engineer

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Use Linux? Now you can video chat too

(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

If you’ve been wanting to use voice and video chat on Linux (our top video chat request), then we have good news for you: it’s now available! Visit to download the plugin and get started. Voice and video chat for Linux supports Ubuntu and other Debian-based Linux distributions, and RPM support will be coming soon.

Posted by Tristan Schmelcher, Software Engineer

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