Update: Here is a Mashable post that highlights the release of the new feature.
Google is making a move into social media with a new status feature that it will launch for its Gmail users, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Though the Web is a buzz about the possibility and implications this new feature, which aims to showcase the statuses and content sharing of Gmail users in a similar stream like Twitter, there are several factors to consider before we draw conclusions – especially ones that pronounce this being a future competitor to Facebook or Twitter.
First, let’s remember Google’s last mostly failed attempt at creating their own social network: Orkut. Okay, perhaps saying it is a failure is an overstatement, but the site has only been able to cease a large market of users in Brazil, and most recently Facebook has been moving into that market. Orkut’s overall traffic, however, has continued to decline, and that likely is reflective of its user-base as well.
Second, Google tried to make Google Reader more social by adding follow features, similar to Twitter and other social services that mostly haven’t had the effect people anticipated. From my understanding and observations, people have stuck with other services that include those similar functions.
Why this time might be different
However, this time it might be different and the implementation of a social stream may actually catch on this time. Why? A couple of simple reasons:
- User-base: According to the report, Google is not only introducing the feature to an existing base of Gmail users (37 million unique visitors in July). That’s a lot of users that the feature could attract. Google could potential grab users that want all their social interaction in one spot.
- Third-party integration: The stream of status updates and content would include Google-owned applications like YouTube and Picasa, as well as the potential for third-party applications as well. If Google decides to integrate other services, it has the potential for being a one-stop shop for social Google users, an attempt similar to Friendfeed.
Apparently Google may announce these features tomorrow. The details might give us a better idea of what the implications these features might truly have. My take is that Google may have learned from it’s past mistakes and will continue to strive to provide a one-stop shop for its users.
My guess is that the features will make some of our networking with users more effecient, but not necessarily replacing our use of other status-updating or content distributing social services like Facebook or Twitter. People don’t want another social network, at least most don’t. They just want what is already there to be improved. Perhaps Google Buzz can do that.