Google is integrating its popular e-mail service with its instant messaging (IM), allowing users to chat and send e-mails from the same web browser window. The new facility will be visible to existing subscribers from within Google’s Gmail browser window.

With this new feature called “Gmail Chat,” Google hopes to attract users by offering instant messaging sans the need for a separate program.

“Gmail Chat” will enable users to start conversations either with fellow Gmail account holders or contacts using services compatible with Google’s messaging facilities such as US-based Earthlink, chat client and e-mail providers in China, Italy and the Philippines.

The new feature will also allow users to keep a running record of instant messaging conversations, in turn archived in Gmail. Those who do not wish to record conversations can turn-off the feature.

Google says that all subscribers will be able to use “Gmail Chat” within 2-3 weeks.

While Google’s existing chat service lags behind rivals AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft; the latest move is being held as an attempt to steer Gmail users towards the company’s 6-month old Google Talk service. Currently, Google Talk enables Google account holders to have voice conversations using the Internet.