I'm a creature of habit. My morning routine consists of going to my desk with coffee mug in hand and checking my email, reading the news and updating my to-do list. One place I can do all of that without having to go to multiple websites is iGoogle. Having the ability to work on email right on my iGoogle page has been awesome, but I simply couldn't get the same Gmail experience without the chat feature. So we got together with the iGoogle team several months back to talk about how to integrate a chat feature on iGoogle, and since then, we've been running experiments with a small number of iGoogle users and have also been using it internally. We're pleased to announce that starting today we are extending the feature to a larger set of iGoogle users.

Similar to the chat feature on Gmail, people will be able to send instant messages to their colleagues, friends and family straight from their iGoogle page. We've made this easy. If you're already a Gmail chat user, all your current chat settings will apply to iGoogle, so things will work the way you like in both places. But even more exciting is that you'll even be able to chat with friends who don't yet have a Gmail address — any email address will do. All you have to do is invite them as a chat buddy, and if they accept your invitation and sign up for iGoogle with their personal email account, their name becomes just a click away right on your page. Don't want to be bothered while you're checking out the latest news or reading your emails? You have a couple of options to hid the chat feature. You can either click the chat “options” link and selecting “hide chat,” or sign off completely by selecting "sign out of chat."

It's worth noting that this feature may have some kinks, so we ask for your patience as we work through them. Here at Google, it's common practice for us to involve our users as early possible so we can make sure we get it right. We'll also be rolling this feature out slowly, so if you don't see it on your iGoogle page and you simply can't wait to check it out, feel free to opt in by going to www.google.com/ig/v2invite.

Currently, iGoogle chat is rolling out in English for our U.S. users. But don't worry, the feature is coming soon for other iGoogle supported languages and countries. You can check out our Help Center for more information on how it works, and as always, we are interested in hearing any feedback you have.