Why Does It Go from a Green to a Yellow Camera on Gmail?
By Aaron Charles
Gmail can be a powerful tool in business, giving you the ability to email, make phone calls and participate in text, voice and video chats. The camera icon is related directly to your Gmail account's chat feature. It's generally referred to as your Gmail chat status, and indicates whether you're available, unavailable or too busy for chatting.
The camera icon signifies that a Gmail user has downloaded and installed Google's voice and video chat plugin. Otherwise, you'll see a dot-shaped clock icon next to a person's Gmail username instead of the camera. With the voice and video plug-in installed, you can perform voice and video chats over the Gmail network. If there's no camera icon visible, you're limited to text chats only. The camera or dot's color shows a person's chat status.
The green camera icon means that you're available to chat, the orange icon means that you're away from your computer or mobile device, and the red icon means that you're busy. When your camera icon changes from green to orange, it communicates to others that you've been away from your computer or device -- or idle -- for 15 minutes or longer. Unlike the busy status, you can't set the idle status yourself; it changes automatically.
Only those whom you can see in your chat list can see your chat status, whether available, idle or busy. If you're offline, a gray dot with an "x" through it will be displayed instead of a green, orange or red icon. This same dot will also appear if you opt to work in "Invisible" status, making it appear that you're offline. However, you can still interact via chat with those whom you contact. To enter invisible status, click the green camera or dot icon next to your Gmail photo and select "Invisible."
If you don't want someone who's already in your chat list to know your status in Gmail, you can block that person. To do so, click the person's name in your chat list, which will open a chat dialog box, then click "More" and choose to block the person. On another note, outside of Gmail, you'll find the same basic chat status dynamic in Google's chat program Google Talk. In that program, though, the available icon changes to an orange color after 10 minutes of being idle, not 15 minutes like in Gmail chat.
Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including Salon.com and "The Portland Upside."