Search giant Google has begun rolling out Buzz, a social networking utility embedded within the company's Gmail service that takes aim squarely at rivals Facebook and Twitter.
Already available to many Gmail users, Buzz incorporates familiar features like status updates and media sharing capabilities into the email client and automatically generates a friends list based on users' existing Gmail contacts. The service's mobile version, accessible via iPhone or any Android-powered handset, includes speech-to-text functionality and GPS-based integration with the company's Maps application. It's safe to say that the CEOs of Yelp, Foursquare and every other location-aware social utility are sweating this new development.
Buzz isn't Google's first foray into social networking: Orkut, a service the company debuted over six years ago, now boasts over 100 million users. But while Orkut has found popularity primarily among Brazilian and Indian users, Google aims to entice Facebook's install base of over 400 million global users into making Buzz their social networking utility of choice.
"It has become a core belief of ours that organizing the social information on the Web is a Google-scale problem," said Gmail product manager Todd Jackson in a CNET interview. In this case, the "problem" may be that Google has no access to the massive amounts of data that users exchange daily on closed networks like Facebook and Twitter, and therefore no way to sort and monetize this information via targeted advertisements.
Will Buzz actually threaten Facebook's dominance in the social networking sphere? I'm withholding my opinion until I've had some time to poke around and see what it can do. All I know for now is that after three years of politely explaining to my parents why I couldn't befriend them on Facebook, we're now all part of the same happy social networking family.
(And to preemptively answer your questions, Mom, yes, I was drunk that night, and no, it won't happen again.)