Google has given Gmail a social-networking component with its introduction of Buzz, a service built inside the webmail product that lets users post and share content as they do on Facebook and Twitter.
How successful Google will be in convincing Gmail users to shift their social-networking tasks over to Buzz remains to be seen. Google believes Buzz offers enough improvements over existing social networks. Specifically, Buzz has been designed to help users deal with the often massive amount of information they receive through their social-networking sites.
"Increasingly, it's becoming harder and harder to make sense and find the signal in the noise," said Bradley Horowitz, a Google vice president of product management.
The problem is only going to get worse, as people continue to find value in and embrace social media, he said. "We all feel this bombardment, this fatigue of having to go manually through and try to make sense of the torrent of information that's washing over us," he said. "This has become a large-scale problem, the kind we're good at [solving at] Google."
However, as Google officials acknowledged, Buzz right now has no links into Facebook, the world's largest social-networking site with more than 400 million members. This means that Buzz, at least for the moment, exists in parallel with Facebook, without the two of them intersecting, thus offering no help for users of that site, a major gap in Buzz's coverage.
As for Twitter, users can't post to Twitter from Buzz right now, but they can direct their Twitter posts to Buzz, as well as other content they post on public sites, like the Flickr and Picasa photo sharing sites from Yahoo and Google, respectively.