June 8th, 2010 | Published in Gmail (Google Mail)
Update (5:28PM, June 30th): And we're back! You'll see the redesigned chat window the next time you start up a chat.
Update (4:59PM, June 9th): Bad news: we discovered an issue with the new chat design that impacted a small number of Google Apps users. Rather than have them experience problems with chat, we've pulled back this change to fix it. We plan to have this out again in the next week or so — thanks for bearing with us.
Video chat, voice chat, and group chat have all been available for some time within Gmail, but they've been curiously tucked away. Getting them up and running required fidgeting with a little menu at the bottom of each chat window. Starting today, all of these features will be just a single click away.
One of the more subtle benefits to surfacing these chat options is that it's easier for people to get started who don't yet have the voice and video chat plugin.
If your chat buddy doesn't have the plugin, clicking on this icon in the chat window will invite them to install it. As soon as they're done, you can carry on with a face-to-face video chat. Since we launched a similar feature on iGoogle and orkut a little while ago, we've seen a dramatic uptick in people using video chat.
Finally, you'll find oldie but goodie features such as "Go off the record," "Block", and "Send SMS" in a more aptly named "Actions" menu of each chat window.