Google announces Buzz: Social features in Gmail

The new social feature offers both Twitter-like and Facebook-like posting.

Google announced today a social or micro-blogging-like new "Buzz" feature in Gmail. Google Buzz enables you to post "status updates" and other content that will instantly be distributed to whoever is following you.

The service auto-follows you to a few people, who are chosen according to who you e-mail or chat with the most using Gmail or Talk, but you can edit that list by deleting or adding people. Google Buzz supports Twitter-like public posting, as well as Facebook-like private posting.

Google Buzz will auto-broadcast feeds entered into your Google Profiles account. So if you have a blog, you can add the RSS feed to Profiles, and your Google Buzz followers will get a link to everything posted on your blog, automatically. The feature can show you friends' Twitter or Google Reader posts, as well as pictures and videos posted on Picasa, Flickr and YouTube. Pictures are shown in a special view that makes them nearly as tall or wide as the open browser window, which means they be larger than pictures can be displayed in Facebook or in third-party Twitter-supporting applications for pictures. Videos are displayed "in line," which means they'll play right there in the Gmail inbox.

Google says Buzz will support Facebook in the future.

The private posting can go to groups created by the user, or individuals. Buzz uses Gmail's spam filtering. By placing an @ symbol, followed by the person's Gmail username, the message is sent directly to that person, similar to Twitter.

Buzz posts show up as if they're Gmail e-mail, but with a little icon that identifies the Buzz content. When you comment, the comments show up in the other person's Gmail inbox in real-time -- a feature formerly associated with the beta product Google Wave.

Google announced an application for Buzz, available at buzz.google.com for people using iPhone or Android phones. The service is also available from the main google.com page when accessed via a mobile phone.

The phone application can use the GPS in a cell phone to guess where you are (in terms of what business you're at). If the guess is correct, a single button push posts your location via Google Buzz, or "geo-tags" your posts.

The app also enables you to quickly link to a page about the business you're at, and lets you comment on the business, or read the comments of others. This feature quietly realizes a long-held vision for the posting of invisible notes in specific places. This idea was a cornerstone of a project at HP Labs years ago called "Cool Town." Combined with Google's newish "Explore Right Here" feature, Google Buzz's mobile location feature mostly realizes that vision.

Also: A "Buzz layer" has been added to Google Maps. So in the Maps app on a smart phone lets you choose Buzz, which facilitates posting location or location-based information.

Google plans to launch an enterprise version of Buzz in the future.

The consumer version of Buzz will be launched gradually to users over the next few days, according to Google.

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