Google Buzz Makes Gmail Less Socially Awkward
Can a microblogging twist on Gmail raise Google’s profile in social networking? We’ll soon find out. At an event at company headquarters today, Google announced Google Buzz, a new Twitteresque status update system for the email service that will allow users to share their everyday mundanities and inanities and follow those of selected contacts.
“A Google approach to sharing,” Buzz is designed to, in the words of Bradley Horowitz, VP of Product Management, “find the signal in the social networking noise.”
The service exists within Gmail and promises to bring the social network that Google (GOOG) says always existed beneath the email service to the surface.
“The stream of social messages has become a torrent,” said Horowitz. “There is no way to parse that amount of information that ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. We think this has become a Google-scale problem.”
Buzz taps into the torrent via the sort of feature set you’d expect: auto-following, which turns Gmail contact lists into social networks (which seems to me a horrifically bad idea; Like most folks, I imagine I have quite a few contacts I absolutely do NOT want to included in my social network); public and private sharing options; support of the “@ reply” feature popularized by Twitter; and a feature called “Recommended Buzz” that allows users to endorse updates they enjoy. The service also strives to make it easy to enhance those updates with content from other sites–Flickr, Picasa, YouTube and, yes, Twitter (no Facebook, though–yet).
Buzz, which launches Tuesday, is closely tied to Google’s mobile ambitions. It will debut in concert with a Web app for Android and iPhone and an enhancement to Google Maps for Mobile that will use GPS data to associate public Buzz content posted from mobile phones with location.
Google is the latest search company to try to graft social-networking features onto email service. Yahoo did it last year by adding “status casting,” its variation on Twitter, to Yahoo Mail. That feature has been mostly ignored since its debut. Perhaps Google’s effort will fare a bit better. It is, perhaps, the one company with enough heft and market power to reasonably take on Facebook. But it won’t be easy: Facebook has some 400 million unique users. Gmail, about 176 million.
Still, embrace and extend. Embrace and extend.