Google to add social media to Gmail to rival Facebook

Google is reported to be set to add social media bells and whistles to Gmail in an effort to take on Facebook and Twitter.

Google will add status updates to Gmail as well as photo galleries and other sharing options, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

All Google has at the moment is its Orkut social networking site that is big in India and Brazil according to Wikipedia. Being big in India and Brazil is clearly useful as they are big, but considering we never hear about Orkut it can’t be that useful.

I wonder if what it is doing is enough. Sure it is a start, but it has a lot ground to catch up. I also wonder how much space people have in their lives. Do people want to share in multiple places? Well look at Yahoo! It made similar such moves allowing users to of Yahoo Mail to make status updates and clearly on its own that is not enough. As no on I can think of suddenly started raving about Yahoo!.

Sure Google owns technology like YouTube and Picasa but working against it is that too many people use Hotmail, Yahoo Mail or other rivals. Email has become like your bank account and the idea of moving is something most of us don’t contemplate.

I personally think Gmail is the best thing in email. I prefer it to Microsoft Outlook for work. That could be because of the clunking servers we have and the miniscule amounts of space allocated that is designed to make life difficult (yes IT overlords I am talking to you).

That said I use Facebook most days at work (for work; honest) and on the move on my phone. It is more immersive.

I’m not sure I have the time to do more social networking stuff. I mean if you throw in Twitter and blogging then I am just about done. I need the rest of the time to have a life.

The Wall Street Journal says that Google could announce the new Gmail features as soon as this week.

“Currently, Gmail has a chat bar that can display a short ‘away message’ for each user’s contacts,” WSJ reported. “But the new interface will have an area that users can click through to see updates from more friends in a stream — a format popularized by Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., [Google sources] said.”

The move follows new design updates from Facebook last week to make life easier for its 400 million plus members. Apparently Gmail has around 176 million unique visitors. Many of those will doubtless have Facebook accounts as well.

We also heard last week that Facebook was chasing Google as a place where people read news. It is now fourth placed behind Google, MSN and Yahoo!.

Facebook has already over taken Google News and Google Reader. The changes it made to its design recently touch on email as Facebook chases Google on that front as well.

The spill over is putting the two head to head in an increasing number of areas and Google clearly feels the need to respond.

How far will its efforts socialise Gmail get it? I’m guessing not as far as it wants and not as far as it needs to go.

Another interesting question is what does this mean for brands? They are already very much part of Facebook’s social fabric. Likewise for Twitter. All we have at the moment in terms of commercial activity on Gmail are those ads that scan your system and apparently serve you targeted ads.

This morning I have this “Baltimore Wharf Apartment”. Seriously, Google you need to do some work on this. Besides I’ve seen ‘The Wire’ and it’s unlikely I will ever go to Baltimore.

It could throw up new opportunities for brands to interact in new ways. Who knows how this could work or the opportunities it might present. No one foresaw Twitter being such a boon to brands although as I blogged yesterday some remain scepitical about Twitter’s benefits and that could be a challenge for Google in the socialising of Gmail if it too plans to entice brands deeper into its world.


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  • Sean Miller


    What about Google’s Buzz, just launched, rival to Facebook but tough to beat the old man.. :)