Google’s Buzz to take on Facebook

Google has mounted its most ambitious assault on the booming social networking business in an attempt to win back ground lost to fast-growing Facebook.

The group said on Tuesday it hoped to use its core search engine technology to sift the flood of social media and filter out distracting or irrelevant information for users of Google Buzz, its latest service.

“We will have access to those things you’re interested in, those posts you read,” said Sergey Brin, co-founder. “We think we’ll be able to make those things useful to you.”

The launch of Buzz follows a series of unsuccessful attempts to strengthen its foothold in social networking, including a service called Orkut, which pre-dated Facebook, and a Twitter-like service known as Jaiku.

As Google has fallen behind, Facebook has in the past year become the first place many internet users turn to find information or communicate with their friends. The leading social network site has more than 400m users.

In a change of tack, Google said it would apply some of its core assets to the fightback. It would not only deploy search algorithms, but also integrate Buzz closely with Gmail, its web-based e-mail service, so it would be possible to see friends add comments to a post in real time from inside an e-mail.

Gmail had 176m monthly unique users at the end of last year, according to ComScore.

Google also showed off ways to use Buzz from a smartphone, taking advantage of advanced features of its Android mobile software, such as voice recognition for dictating messages.

At first, Google said it would ask users to recommend items they found interesting on Buzz and use these to learn about their interests and refine how information is presented.

Mr Brin said the company would eventually have access to much more information and use this to improve the service.

“It’s becoming harder and harder to make sense and find the signal in the noise,” said Bradley Horowitz, vice-president of product management.

Google employees have used Buzz for the past six months, and executives singled out its potential as a tool for business users rather than just for entertainment and talking to friends.

“You have the meeting of social communication and productivity that are closer together,” said Mr Brin.

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