Google Buzz: Another attempt to harness the content firehose

Rather than create another new destination social network like Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare, Google today announced that it has added social networking and location-based features into Gmail, Google Profiles, and Google Maps with a new service called Google Buzz.

Late last week, rumors surfaced that Google was debuting a new "Social Gmail" this week, and that really is kind of what Buzz is. With it, you can post status updates and share links, photos, and location-based updates with your Gmail contacts, and the content being posted by your contacts is automatically ranked according to your interactions with that contact. Ultimately, it's a lot like FriendFeed but with a Google flavor.

Buzz updates are read directly in Gmail just like an e-mail thread, and posts can be kept only between friends or be published to the Web at large under the user's Google Profile like a Twitter feed. All posts and comments appear in real time, and they can come from Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, and Google Reader. Location-based posts can be sent from through the user's mobile browser. Additionally, the Google Maps app for Android and Symbian received an update today which adds a Buzz layer for plotting buzzed-about spots. In the Google Search widget in Android, users can simply do a voice search where they say "Post Buzz" and their location will automatically be posted.

The service will be rolled out to Gmail inboxes this week, the mobile site is currently live, and the updated Maps app is available now. Users who already have a Google Profile and Gmail account don't need to sign up for anything, and can immediately begin posting.

Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategist for the Altimeter Group said today, "To Facebook, this is a direct threat, these features emulate Friendfeed and the recently-designed Facebook newsfeed. Expect Google to incorporporate Facebook connect, commoditizing Facebook data as it gets sucked into Google and displayed on Google SERP...This is good for Twitter in the short term, as it'll amplify tweets, and suck them into a new system and give additional reach. Yet over time, status features will become a commodity, and Twitter as a destination will fade into the background."

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