Collaborate, Create, Communicate

Google Talk or Skype: the winner is…

Have you been wondering what was decided after I wrote the Google Talk and Skype comparison post in August 2009 titled: The question begs, Google Talk, Skype or both?

Well, the winner is: both!

At the CGIAR Information Technology meeting held in October in Cali, Colombia, we concluded that Google Talk and Skype are both useful tools that work well in different situations and the decision was to give staff the opportunity to select the communication tool that best suits their needs instead of selecting a single standard for all.

To help end-users understand the differences, following is a summary of the features that are common to both tools and the features that are unique to each:

Features common to both Skype and Google Talk:

  • Instant messaging (IM) and group chat
  • See the online status of contacts
  • Make PC-to-PC calls (VoIP)
  • Make a one-to-one videoconference
  • Group chat
  • Transfer files
  • Add contacts
  • Set a custom status message on your profile
  • Voicemail
  • Mobile device compatibility

Features unique to Skype


  • Search for users on a worldwide Skype user directory
  • Conference calls with up to 25 users (free)
  • Call landlines and mobile phones worldwide (at a cost)
  • Send SMS (at a cost)
  • Call forwarding

Features unique to Google Talk

Google Talk

Google Talk is one of the tools included in our implementation of Google Apps Education Edition – CGX 2.0, so CGIAR staff  from the 13 participating centers are entitled to a CGX account that allows them to use Google Talk with the following advantages:

  • Easily locate CGIAR contacts through the CGX user corporate directory
  • Integrated with the Google Apps: Docs, Sites, Calendar
  • Light-weight client: consumes less bandwidth
  • Different ways of accessing Google Talk (Downloadable client or Google Talk gadget web access which requires no downloads)

When to use what tool:

Skype is recommended for external communications since users can make low-cost external phone calls to landlines and mobiles , send SMS and host conference calls with up to 25 people at a time.

Google Talk is recommended for internal and inter-center communications because it is integrated with our corporate directory and therefore more enterprise-oriented. It also allows users to communicate externally with other Gmail users and consumes less bandwidth. To get started with Google Talk, we have prepared an end-user guide for CGIAR staff:

Google Talk end-user guide for CGIAR staff (PDF, 1.5MB)

CGIAR staff can contact their local Helpdesk to get assistance in the installation and configuration of these tools appropriately or contact cgxchange@cgiar.org if they have any questions.

Other useful resources: