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Google Tests Social Gadgets In Australia

A dozen gadgets designed for social interaction and data sharing have been released to Australian iGoogle users. If all goes well with the testing, expect the social features to show up elsewhere.

Google has rolled out a set of 12 gadgets that support social interaction for Australian iGoogle users.

The social gadgets -- small programs that can be embedded in iGoogle pages -- allow users to share data or play games with selected friends listed as Google Contacts.

"Your friends are able to see what you share or do in social gadgets through the gadgets themselves, or through a new feed of information called Updates, a way to see what your friends are doing on iGoogle without adding all the gadgets that they have," explained Google engineer Jeff Regan in a blog post. "Updates can include everything from favorite YouTube videos, to recently shared photo albums, to movie plans for the upcoming weekend..."

With Updates, Google moves a step closer to emulating Facebook, a journey that Google began in earnest early last year. The Updates feed is similar in concept to the Facebook Wall and to Friend Feed.

As Google continues to weave social features into its sites, the effect will likely be to encourage Google users to spend more time on Google properties. That should lead to an increase in ad revenue that Google doesn't have to share with partners.

The new social gadgets include:, Biggest Brain, YouTube, Photos, Chess, Flood-It!, NY Times Crossword, To Do, Go Comics, Trivia, Timeline, and Tile Game.

Regan says that the social features are optional and that gadgets will function normally without them.

Users outside of Australia can also use these gadgets but the social features will not be enabled for them. Google expects to make social gadgets available in the U.S. at some point in the future.

The company is encouraging developers to get involved and build more social gadgets "to take advantage of iGoogle's growing audience of tens of millions of users"

However, a Wall Street Journal report earlier this week about how widget developers Slide and RockYou have recast themselves as distributed media companies suggests that Google's encouragement may not be enough to make social gadget development broadly profitable.

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