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Google Reader Goes Social

Taking a cue from Twitter and Facebook, Google is adding social features to its Reader software and tightening the link between Google profiles and its other services.

Google on Wednesday continued its move toward social computing with the addition of Twitter-flavored sharing features to Google Reader, the company's online feed aggregation service.

The four new features aim to provide users with greater control over the content they share and to help users find content shared by others.

There's a new people search feature in Reader that will look through Google profiles, the company's answer to Facebook profiles.

Google introduced profile pages for users with a Google Account in April, when it began showing Google profile results at the bottom of search pages in the U.S. in response to searches for names. The goal of profiles, Google maintains, is to give people more control over how they're presented in Google search results.

Profiles found through Reader searches now provide the option to subscribe to -- "follow" in Twitter-speak -- the profiled person's shared items. And Google of course is providing users with the ability to add a customizable Reader link to their profile to encourage others to follow them.

Reader now allows users to share items with one specific group or multiple groups. Reader's groups mirror Gmail groups, so changes in the one will affect the other.

Reader users can also now check a "Like" icon associated with articles and blog posts to express approval of content.

"All 'likes' are public, so anyone reading an item you've 'liked' in Reader can see that you're a fan," said Jenna Bilotta, a Google designer, in a blog post. "Checking out shared items for people who have 'liked' the same items as you is a great way to discover other people with interests similar to your own."

Google may be hoping that such social interaction will encourage the use of its services rather than those of other social networks.

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