Google took its two newest steps on the march toward world domination this week, first rolling out a feature that lets people make free phone calls from Gmail, and then introducing real-time searching of fast-updating information, like tweets.
The first initiative is off to a hot start. Gmail users placed more than a million phone calls through Google on the service’s first day Wednesday.
Calling from within Gmail, by contrast, requires nothing more than installing a small plug-in program (available for Windows XP or newer, Mac OS X 10.4 or newer and some versions of Linux) and logging into Gmail. Click the “Call phone” link to the left of your inbox, type in a number, click the big blue “Call” button and things proceed as if you had just finished spinning a Bell System phone’s rotary dial [Washington Post].
The Iranian government announced yesterday that Google’s email service, Gmail, will be permanently shut down in the country, and will be replaced by a new state-run email service.
The announcement from the Iranian telecommunications agency came on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic, when anti-government protesters were expected to take to the streets. Less than a year ago, thousands of protesters came out in huge rallies protesting the disputed June presidential election. The protests plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the victory of Islamic revolution in 1979 which toppled the Shah [Reuters]. The opposition rallies were watched across the world on YouTube videos, and protesters not only blogged about the events but were also very vocal on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Tehran insists locking down Gmail is meant to boost local development of Internet technology and to build trust between people and the government [Wall Street Journal]. Meanwhile, Google confirmed a sharp drop in traffic in Iran and announced that many Iranians appeared to be having trouble accessing Gmail. The company added that Google strongly believes that people everywhere should be able to communicate freely online.