So, Google just grew a new leg called Buzz. We caught wind of the addition yesterday, but what we thought was going to be a simple status update option has turned out to be what can only be described as Facebook for Gmail.
Facebook for Gmail
Here's how it works: Sign into Gmail, click the new Buzz link just under the Inbox link and BAM, your main Gmail window is suddenly a social network.
The feed looks almost identical to a Facebook wall, meaning at the top there is a text field for you to post status updates, which will then appear just below. Your friends -- either a defined group of Gmailers or people you e-mail regularly -- can then comment on your updates, or "favorite" them like starring a Tweet, or Liking something on Facebook.
Like Facebook's live feed, your Google Buzz updates will appear on the pane alongside updates from your friends. And, like Facebook's profile page, you can simply view your Google Profile page to see all your personal updates complete with responses.
Moreover, users can connect Buzz with external sites, so that when an update is made on say Twitter or Flickr, it will appear as a post on the Buzz stream.
Check out Google's video to see the tool in action:
The One Difference
Google banks on their Recommendation Engine (think Pandora) to set them apart from Facebook. By remembering the sorts of posts users mark as their favorites, the engine can recommend related content from people outside a user's social circle, thereby encouraging more connections rather than shutting them out.
Still, if you're a Facebook user already, you might be wondering what the point of using an almost identical tool is. For Google, it's about organizing the spread of information around the 'net.
Though Facebook seems to have a pretty solid hold on the social networking world, and Twitter a solid hold on that whole microblogging thing, Google's preference is to pack all that information under one primary-coloured umbrella.
Facebook, Google, or Both?
"It has become a core belief of ours that organizing the social information on the Web is a Google-scale problem," explained Todd Jackson, Gmail product manager.
Do you agree? After all, so far Google's efforts to tap into all the social goodness that Facebook keeps behind a tall wall have been less than successful. Although, the release of Buzz will certainly promote the use of Google Profiles, which directly relates to the success of other recent releases like Google Social Search.
On the other hand, some wonder if Facebook's upcoming in-house webmail service, currently known as Project Titan, will take a significant bite out of Gmail's user base.
As these two go head to head, the question becomes: How comfortable are you with keeping all of your everyday Web activities under one roof?
For more information on Buzz, including the mobile version, head over here.