Google dips its toe into user-generated profiles

New profile program allows Google users to share information about themselves

Google over the weekend quietly announced Google Profiles, which provide a way for users of various Google products like Google Maps and Google Reader to offer information about themselves to other users.

The announcement got some bloggers twittering about a possible future foray by Google into social networking. A Google Profile will initially include basic points, like a user's name, photo and location, and can include other information, like a person's profession.

"You control what goes into your Google Profile, sharing as much (or as little) as you'd like," Google noted on a Web page with a brief description about Google Profiles. "Use multiple Google products? Soon your Google Profile will link up with these as well."

Anyone can see a user's profile, the site noted, and if a user includes his full name in a profile, it may be returned in Google search results for that name.

The new Google Profiles are already available in Google Maps and Google Reader and will be added to other Web applications, noted Ionut Alex Chitu, in a post at the Google Operating System blog.

"It is not a stretch to see that these profiles are the perfect host for your activity streams, and your public activities could become a part of the profile (uploading photos to a photo album, bookmarking Web pages, posting a new blog post)," Chitu wrote.

Sepideh Saremi, a blogger at search engine optimization company Reprise Media, noted that this move, combined with Friday's announcement that Google Reader has been linked to the Google Talk chat feature in Gmail to help users better share content with friends, shows that Google is moving closer to building a social network.

Google is chipping away at rival Facebook by "leveraging the dependency Google users have on Google products and building a social network that integrates these products," Saremi wrote.

"Facebook, which tends to annoy its finicky user base by rolling out features that don't necessarily have the user's best interest at heart, should also look to Google when it wants to implement changes to its site," Saremi added. "Google is rolling out its own social features methodically, explaining them clearly, and respecting their user base by saying they will make changes per user feedback. Google's evolving social network platform will absolutely rival Facebook, and probably sooner than anyone realizes."

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Heather Havenstein

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