Google Gives The Gift Of Gab, Extends Free Calling In Gmail Through 2011

Google this week said it will continue offering U.S. users of its Gmail e-mail service free VoIP calling for all of 2011.

Google launched free calls to any phone via Gmail back in August, allowing users to make free calls through 2010 directly from Gmail. Gmail users gobbled up the free service, which lets users make voice calls over the Internet through their Gmail accounts, at such a rapid clip that Google said 1 million Gmail-based VoIP calls were made in the service's first 24 hours.

For Gmail users in the U.S., domestic calls and calls to Canada are free, while calls to other locations, like Europe and Asia, run about 2 cents per minute if users have a Google Voice account.

"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," Google wrote in a blog post highlighting the extension of free calling in Gmail. "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."

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For Gmail users, calling in Gmail is available via the "Call phone" button that appears at the left of a user's Gmail screen at the top of the chat list. Clicking the "Call phone" button brings up a dial pad that lets users make free calls.

Currently, calling in Gmail is only available in the U.S. Google has not said when it plans to expand coverage to other countries.