Santa Cruz Networks adds video to Google Talk

Festoon video plug-in software lets IM users see who they're talking to

Santa Cruz Networks announced an update to its Festoon video plug-in software so that users of Google's instant messaging service can see who they're talking to, the startup said in a release Friday. The plug-in for Google Talk will allow users to hold video voice calls on a one-to-one basis or with groups as large as 200 people, as well as to share photos and applications with whoever's on the calls, according to Santa Cruz Networks.

The startup already provides Festoon for the Skype free Internet telephony service now owned by online auction site eBay. The plug-in for Google Talk is designed to also work with Skype, Santa Cruz Networks said in the release. As well as Google and Skype, Santa Cruz Networks is also working with America Online, Yahoo, and Microsoft to add video to their instant messaging services, the startup added, but it has yet to announce more specifics in relation to those three products.

Santa Cruz Networks launched its plug-in for Skype, initially known as vSkype, back in June, renaming the software Festoon in September to avoid confusion with Skype's planned one-to-one video service. Santa Cruz Networks claims there have been over 2.75 million downloads of the Festoon Skype plug-in resulting in more than 40 million video-call user minutes, according to the release.

To use Festoon, users need to connect a PC digital camera to their computers and download the free-of-charge Festoon plug-in from the Festoon Web site, The plug-in works on PCs with processors of 800MHz or higher running Google Talk on Microsoft's Windows 2000 or Windows XP operating systems. In an FAQ on the Festoon Web site, Santa Cruz Networks said it is planning to release the plug-in on other platforms including Linux and Macintosh, but the company doesn't currently have any release dates for those operating systems.

The Festoon plug-in comes with EyeCandy video effects that include placing a variety of cutouts around the individual's online image so they can appear to be a rock star, a muscleman, a priest, a surgeon or even a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. EyeCandy also allows Festoon users to distort an individual's facial features in a variety of ways. A new feature in the latest Festoon plug-in is Snap Picture, the ability to take a picture of any video window you see including your own that can then be saved as Festoon Pictures.

Looking ahead, the startup plans to provide more features in Festoon so that users can download additional EyeCandy video effects and access the company's library of camera personalities and wallpaper, Santa Cruz Networks said in the release.

Google launched its instant messaging service in August as one of many moves to transform its business from purely Internet search into more of a Web portal offering a wide portfolio of online services.