Google has announced it will extend free phone calling from Gmail throughout the entire 2011 calendar year, meaning that Gmail users in the United States will be able to continue placing free calls to numbers in the U.S. and Canada. The service also offers low rates for international calls to other countries.
“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,” Google engineer Robin Schriebman said in a statement.
Google launched its “call from Gmail” feature earlier this year as a way to increase the visibility of its VoIP offerings, which has been dominated by Skype for several years. Google has made major strides with services like Google Voice, and calling from Gmail seemed to strike a chord with Gmail users: Google reportedly saw 10 million phone calls placed from Gmail within the service’s first week of availability.
Calling from Gmail requires that users download and install Google’s voice and video chat software, available for Windows XP+, Mac OS X 10.4 and newer, and Linux.
Google has not announced plans to extend free calling from Gmail to other markets.