iGoogle Finally Goes Social

igoogle_highresGoogle (s goog) today released a host of new gadgets and an “Update” feature to its customizable home page offering, iGoogle, in the U.S. that mirror many of the functions on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, such as the ability to share story links on status updates, play multiplayer games and comment on photos and videos. The additions were made in response to users’ demands for more features that allow them to connect with their friends, according to Google’s VP of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, further evidence of how social networking features are becoming standard fare.

In fact, if you mashed up Twitter’s status updates and Facebook’s news feed together, iGoogle’s new “Update” feature would be your end result — except it lacks Twitter’s real-time capabilities. You can opt to share story links found on the new social versions of the NPR and Huffington Post gadgets to your update page, or photos and videos from the Social Photos and YouTube gadgets.

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In a pointed nod to Twitter, the new Timeline gadget lets users post status updates and track what their friends’ are up to on a calendar, though it also needs to be refreshed manually. And with an eye to Facebook, which has evolved into a social gaming hub since it launched its application platform in 2007, iGoogle now offers three new social gaming gadgets, including an official Scrabble gadget from Electronic Arts (s erts) that lets you play with up to four people. scrabble-canvas

Without leaving the iGoogle page, users can now comment on and share photos from Flickr and Picasa with their friends by entering the new Social Photos gadget and clicking the “Share” link in the top right-hand corner. And they can share videos with friends and comment on videos within Google’s spiffed-up YouTube gadget.

Though the 19 iGoogle gadgets released today are new to the U.S., Google rolled out a handful of them in Australia earlier this month. The geographically concentrated set of iGoogle users in Australia provided the “right market” for the company to gauge user feedback, according to Mayer.