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Tech Report: Introducing Google Buzz

Yesterday, Google took a giant leap into the world of social networking when it introduced a new service called Google Buzz.  Buzz is available through Google's e-mail service Gmail, which has approximately 175 million users worldwide.

Rather than adding to the general confusion of too many e-mail and social networking accounts, Google argues that Buzz will greatly simplify things for Gmail users. They will be able to message, chat, and share photos and videos – all without going outside their regular Gmail environment.

Current Gmail users can access Buzz through a new icon positioned just below the Inbox on the left-hand menu. Once Buzz loads, users can send messages, find people to follow, and  load pictures and video. There are also some rudimentary privacy settings.

Many of the features mimic Facebook and Twitter, two of the leaders in the social networking space. Like Facebook, Buzz allows users to pull in images from online photo services like Flickr and Google's own Picasa, as well as videos from YouTube and messages from Twitter.

With Buzz, Google is promoting the idea that a user's regular e-mail activity is really just another form of social networking and your most frequent e-mail contacts are an in-built circle of friends. Instead of trying to bridge the gap between e-mail and various networking platforms, Google is saying you can stay on your e-mail platform and do it all in one place.

Of course, the problem  facing Google and other social networks is that they are all playing catch-up. With Facebook now boasting over 400 million members, it's going to be hard to shake people loose, particularly if switching e-mail accounts is part of the price you have to pay.

However, never underestimate Google. With deep pockets and an army of partners and developers, the Silicon Valley giant looks like it has entered the social networking field for the long haul.

And maybe a shrewd choice of name will help them along the way. It took almost five years for "Facebook me" to become an accepted part of the social lexicon; Google can argue that "Buzz me" is already there! 

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