Googleis ready for a faceoff withFacebook. The Internet search leader opened a new social hub in its e-mail service yesterday, seeking to outpace online rivals.
The newGmailchannel, called Google Buzz, includes many features that have turned Facebook into the Web's top spot for fraternizing with family and friends.
The move comes less than a week after Facebook made changes of its own: Facebook now shows a list of friends available for chatting on the left side of the page, similar to where Gmail now displays its chat feature.
The Google Buzz features won't reach all of Gmail's estimated 176 million users worldwide for several more days. A link to the service will appear on the top left of the page, in a prominent position just under Gmail's inbox tab.
Like Facebook orTwitter, Google Buzz will let Gmail users post updates about what they are doing or thinking and share those with the rest of the world, or with only a select group of people.
Gmail users also will be able to track other people's updates and comment on them instantly for everyone else in the social circle to see.
And, just like Facebook, Google Buzz can serve as a showcase for video, photos and Web links to interesting stories.
A mobile phone application of Google Buzz is particularly Twitter-like: It allows people to see the public updates of other people in the same vicinity.
Some of Google Buzz's features mirror social tools already available in instant-messaging services and other Web-based e-mail.
Google launched a social network calledOrkutsix years ago, just a few weeks before Facebook began in aHarvarddorm room, but Orkut gained little traction outside ofBrazil. Meanwhile, Facebook has emerged as a cultural phenomenon with more than 400 million users worldwide.
Without mentioning Facebook specifically, Google execs predicted its new service will do a better job of sifting through the clutter of personal updates to pull up the ones most likely to pique each individual user's interest.
For their part, Facebook execs said: "Generally, we're supportive of technologies that help make the Web more social."