Google Buzz brings social networking and sharing to Gmail

New application adds Facebook-like functionality to Google's email offering

Google announced today its newest application for Gmail: Google Buzz, which allows for the sharing of links, pictures, videos, and more in a social networking setting rather than via email. The company also announced the Buzz Mobile app, which adds location-based data to posts and lets users speak their Buzz posts with speech recognition software for the iPhone or Google Android-based handsets.

In introducing Buzz, Google pointed out five key features. The first is autofollowing, in which the people you communicate with the most are automatically put on your Twitter-like follow list. Second, the same look, feel, and keyboard shortcuts from Gmail are carried over into Buzz,  maintaining a consistent user experience. Third, users have the option to share each post either publically or privately (public posts go to all your followers, get added to your Google profile, and are automatically indexed by Google's search engine; private posts only go to designated groups). Fourth, Buzz is integrated with your Gmail inbox, so both email and social sharing are done in the same interface. And finally, Buzz sorts content by relevance: Highly recommended content is displayed at the top, while less crucial things like short status updates are collapsed at the bottom of the Buzz pane.

[ Is imitation Google's latest trend? Just two weeks ago, Google took a page from Microsoft's Bing. ]

If you're thinking this sounds an awful lot like adding Facebook's status updates, wall posts, and link sharing to Gmail, you're on the money. In fact, some of the app's functionalities heavily mimic Facebook. For example, if you post a link to share, Buzz automatically brings in the link's headline as well as a thumbnail image, just like Facebook does. Buzz has also cribbed the "@tagging" feature from Facebook, wherein you can tag individuals in a post by typing the @symbol followed by their name.

Facebook is the titan of the social networking realm, so it makes sense that Google's foray into social networking would involve imitating the king of the hill. However, unless Google can do something to improve upon social networking instead of merely co-opting it, the lack of innovation could ultimately be a Buzz killer as users decide to stick with their already-established social networking sites and habits.

This story, "Google Buzz brings social networking and sharing to Gmail," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in applications at InfoWorld.com.

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