Remember the good old days, when making a phone call meant using an actual phone? The world of telecommunications just got a bit more interesting.
Internet telephony services like Skype have already changed the way many people make phone calls. And Google offers a service called Google Talk that lets you place calls from a web browser, connecting them to your home phone or cell phone. And GTalk, Google's chat service, has offered voice and video chat services like those available through Skype.
Now, Google has stepped into the game of making phone calls without a phone. A new plug-for GMail lets you place phone calls from within your web browser, using your computer's microphone and speakers or a headset.
There are some things you can't do with GMail — like call 911. You can't get incoming calls in GMail, either. But calls within the US are free, and you can buy credit to make low-rate international calls like you can with Skype.
Skype still offers a few advantages, like an actual phone number you can associate with your Skype account to receive calls from regular phones. But GMail's calls in the US are free—and that makes it a great calling plan for those kids you're sending off to college.