Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is trying once again to make a social play with the introduction of a new service that makes it easy for users of its products to post and share updates online. A new tab in Gmail, called ‘Buzz,’ which will roll out over the next several days, lets users share status messages, videos, photos and links. The updates can be shared across the web (they appear on a user’s Google Profile page and are indexed by Google) or just with select contacts. A mobile version of Buzz lets users tag their locations when they post — and quickly see Buzzes sent from locations near to them.
Buzz is a direct assault on Facebook and Twitter, which have grown rapidly by making it easy for people to share information about themselves with contacts — and it’s clearly inspired by both of those services (Just two obvious examples: To send a ‘Buzz’ directly to a friend’s Gmail inbox, you use the ‘@’ function, and there’s also a list of recommended users to “follow” — both features that Twitter has pushed). And, indeed, during a question and answer period following the launch this morning, Google executives were repeatedly asked about Buzz’s similarities to those services. In response, Buzz product manager Todd Jackson said Google tries “not to pay too much attention to competitors.”
Google’s past social initiatives, including its Orkut social networking service, have had limited success (although co-founder Sergey Brin dismissed that assertion during the announcement) — but Google should obviously benefit from Buzz’s ties to Gmail, which has more than 100 million unique users worldwide. Remains to be seen, however, if people who are already so used to sharing updates on Facebook and Twitter will also want to do so on yet another service.