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Google extends free calling through Gmail

The company says people can make free calls in the U.S. and Canada through Gmail's Chat function -- using the calling plugin -- throughout the New Year.

The Gmail calling plugin.

People who use Gmail to make free phone calls in North America will be able to keep doing so for another year.

Google said in a blog post today that it was extending free domestic calling through 2013. It also touted its cheap rates for international calls.

Launched in the summer of 2010 as an alternative to Skype, Google's calling plugin lets people make calls to any mobile phone or landline via the Chat section in Gmail. The service is available for a slew of countries (there's a list here, under "show all rates").

For a how-to on the service, check out this piece by CNET Reviews' Jessica Dolcourt.