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Google Gmail Getting Social Features

In an escalation of its rivalry with Facebook, Google plans to turn Gmail into a social data hub.

Google is reportedly planning to make Gmail more social by allowing users to exchange status updates with friends and share Web content links, features that moves Gmail into more direct competition with Facebook.

News of the plan was revealed on Monday by The Wall Street Journal.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the company on Monday did invite journalists "to see some innovations in two of our most popular products" at a media event to be held Tuesday at the company's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters.

After Google Search, Gmail is one of Google's most popular products.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Gmail users will gain a module that displays status updates from selected Google contacts, a form of interaction popularized by Facebook and MySpace and also embraced by Yahoo.

These status updates will eventually include content shared by one's Google contacts through other Google properties, such as YouTube and Picasa.

Facebook's walled-off form of social computing is seen as one of the few forces that threatens Google's online advertising empire. In response to that threat, Google has spent the past few years adding social features to encourage social interaction among users of its services.

In October, 2009, Google introduced a Social Search experiement, a way to see what online friends have posted when the content is relevant to a given search. Last month, Google promoted its Social Search experiment from Google Labs to a beta product.

Last July, Google added social features to its Reader service, part of its push to encourage more users to create Google Profiles.

The company has also been promoting social interaction on its iGoogle customizable home page through the introduction of social gadgets.

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