Google wants to become a somebody in the world of social networking. This week the company released 19 "social gadgets" for users of its iGoogle personalized home page. It also added a share feature for its RSS feed reader tool, Google Reader. But Google has been hit or miss with its previous social attempts and while some of these features are cool, others are problematic.
The blog Searchcowboys.com described Google's checkered past with social applications best when it said, "Orkut never really made it, except for in countries like Brazil and India and the acquisition of Jaiku can be called a disaster if you look at the current success of Twitter." Orkut is a same-old/same-old social network designed to compete witih the likes of Facebook and Myspace. Jaku, which Google acquired in 2007, is another microblogging site spawned during the years before Twitter "won" when several such services were duking it out (... Identi.ca, Plurk, Pownce, Qaiku, Youmeo).
Whether Google has given up on building its own social network or not remains to be seen. But its currrent tactic is to add social features to its existing applications so that you can share content with others who have Google accounts. As of yesterday, iGoogle users can add widgets designed to be shared with Google buddies. On the "cool" side, Google has added a "Friends" feature to iGoogle. Users designate contacts from their Gmail contacts lists as "friends" and these are the the only folks who can see their social widgets.
The list of social widgets do tasks like playing Scrabble (and yeah, it is officialy called Scrabble .. take that Facebook), sharing photos, reading a couple select popular politcal blogs (Huffington Post). Not all of them are available to all users yet. Google first experimented with users in Australia and is slowly rolling out to North America, it said in its blog post. And not all of the gadgets are glitch free.
I tried to add Scrabble, only to be told I needed to adjust a mysterious setting in order to use it ... with no information on what or where that setting was or how I needed to change it. Other users are reporting similar problems with Scrabble. The widget "Captions" told me it wasn't available for me yet.
This story, "Share Features Come to iGoogle, Google Reader" was originally published by Network World.