Gmail status updates 'to compete with Facebook and Twitter'
Google is tomorrow expected to announce enhancements to its Gmail service that will make it easier for users to share links, media and status updates with friends.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the move "will allow Gmail users to view a stream of status updates from people they choose to connect with".
It will also make it easier for users of Google's web-based email service to share links, content and media with friends from video-sharing sites such as YouTube, and photo-sharing service Picasa, both of which are owned by Google.
Gmail users can already set a "status" message within the email service's chat function, but each time a user updates their status, previous status disappear.
The new service will reportedly present status updates in a timeline format, more akin to Twitter or Facebook, providing users with a real-time stream of status updates from their Gmail contacts. Yahoo! added a similar feature to its web-based email service last year.
It is not yet clear whether these updates would be pushed out of Gmail to rival platforms, such as Twitter.
Google has refused to comment on the speculation, though it is holding a press conference on Wednesday to "unveil some new products and innovations".
Google is facing increasing competition from the likes of Facebook and Twitter, which dominate the social web. Although Google's Orkut social networking site is huge in Brazil, and YouTube, which it acquired in 2006, is the biggest video-sharing site online, it has yet to gain a significant foothold in the social networking arena.
Facebook, by contrast, is building an increasing number of communication features that encourage its 400 million users to remain within the social networking site to contact friends by email or instant message.
“Anything Google does with Gmail should be seen as a defensive manoeuvre,” said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner.
But some industry experts wonder whether the expected changes to Gmail status updates will go far enough.
"It won't work unless it connects to Facebook and Twitter," wrote John Battelle, a search expert, on his blog. "As I've pointed out before, Google won't do that, at least not yet, and certainly not in the way it should be done.
"Google is simply not understood by consumers to be a place where they can connect with friends and colleagues. If it intends to become that, it has some DNA mutation in its future. This one should be interesting."