Google Inc. plans to tweak Gmail to make it easier for its users to post and share status updates, in an attempt to inject the Web mail service with social networking capabilities popularized by Twitter and Facebook, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The announcement could come as early as this week, the Journal reported on Monday, quoting anonymous sources familiar with the plans.
Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the Journal’s article.
Google would be the latest consumer Internet company to try to graft social-networking features onto its online communications services. Yahoo and AOL have already taken steps to “socialize” their respective Web mail and instant-messaging services.
How successful Google and the others will be in replicating the allure of the social networking sites’ experience in their Internet communications services is still unclear.
Facebook, with about 400 million members worldwide and counting, has become the preferred site for people to engage in personal social-networking interactions with very granular privacy controls.
Meanwhile, Twitter is the de facto online service for people and organizations to post brief, public status updates on the Web.
While Gmail, its GTalk IM companion, and the Web mail and IM services from Yahoo and AOL have tens of millions of users worldwide, people associate them with their specific communications uses.
Google has a social-networking site, Orkut, that is popular in certain parts of the world, like Brazil, but is far from matching Facebook’s appeal.
Facebook is increasingly seen as a serious Google competitor, as Facebook has broadened its scope of services and offerings into Google areas. For example, people increasingly search the Web from within Facebook using Microsoft’s Bing engine. Meanwhile, many news publishers are also delivering their content within Facebook, rivaling the Google News article aggregation site. Facebook also provides internal messaging and IM capabilities, as well as photo and video sharing features.