Google Buzz takes on Facebook and Twitter
Google has launched a new tool that will allow users of its email service to share their feelings with other users, in an effort to take on social networking giants Facebook and Twitter head-on.
Google Buzz, as the new application is called, essentially allows Gmail users to write status updates which other users can see, but goes further by allowing them to aggregate other services in an attempt to make it easier to operate in the increasingly frustrating information-heavy online environment.
It is a significant expansion of a feature currently available in Gmail where users can write small status updates in its chat function which can be seen only by friends.
Buzz goes a number of steps further, however, by allowing users to create a Google profile page, which can be seen not just by friends but by the entire web if so desired, and will guide users to follow the people they email and chat with the most.
It will also allows posts to include links, YouTube videos, pictures from Google's Picasa hosting service.
Buzz also sends replies to status updates straight into a user's Gmail inbox, meaning less toggling between various browser windows, and allows an individual to connect social networking feeds from Twitter and Flickr into one place.
"The stream of messages has become a torrent," said Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice-president of product development. "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."
However there are some significant drawbacks, not least the current inability at launch to connect Buzz with Facebook, and the fact that although an update written in Buzz will be 'tweeted' to a person's followers, followers' replies to that update will not be seen in Buzz.
Google will bring its own unique sense of ranking to the social networking world, however, in particular flagging up updates from friends that have been commented upon or 'liked' by others, and therefore are deemed more meaningful than someone simply saying what they had for their lunch.
Buzz is in the process of being rolled out to all Gmail users, with no final date by which all account holders will be able to use it.
Gmail is the third most popular web-based email in the world, with 176.5m unique visitors in December, based on statistics from comScore, which ranks Microsoft's Hotmail number one, with 369.2m unique visitors, and Yahoo Mail second with 303.7m.