Live From Google's February Event: Google Goes Social

We're covering Google's mysterious, bizarrely secret product unveiling(s) live right here - and things are kicking off right now. Is Google just going all Twittery, or are they going to surprise us?

1:15: Google's Bradley Horowitz is on stage, and he's talking in broad terms about "sharing", and things like that! Sounds like Twitter, in the context of rumours. Without the rumours, it sounds a little like nothing.

1:19: Ah! There it is. "Google Buzz." It's built into Gmail, and Google's Todd Jackson is jumping on stage to talk about it.

1:21: OK, this is what the WSJ was talking about: It's a system of "social updates" that leverages your Google contacts. It can auto-follow, sort of like how Gmail automatically adds contacts. You can publish private or public updates.

1:25: Here's what it looks like: It's a bit like Twitter, but there doesn't seem to be any kind of character limit. And you can share anything, like photos and video.

1:28: The Buzz timeline has all kinds of media support, including a cool automatic photo album thing. Using this looks a lot like using Twitter through an advanced client - you know how Tweetie or Tweetdeck lets you preview stuff without changing windows? The experience is a lot like that.

1:30: Haha, people have figured out the demo computer's email address, and they're spamming the inbox. Awesome.

1:33: Inbox integration is exactly what it sounds like—by @ing a comment on a Buzz link to one of your contacts, it will show up in their Gmail inbox. Google says obliquely that "the @ response has become very popular on the internet", without mentioning Twitter at all. This is funny, see, because Buzz is a flaming cannonball aimed directly at Twitter's heart.

1:35: Gmail's "Just the Good Stuff" feature highlights popular content, so you can discover new Buzz folks to follow, I guess. Trending topics, anyone?

1:36: And yes, there are going to be mobile apps. But first, a speech.

1:38: Buzz will include geolocation on smartphones, to give conversations and content "context".

1:40: OK, here's how Buzz on mobile will work: You can simply go to Google's homepage on a supported smartphone, and click the little Buzz icon on the top right corner, next to the services list. It'll poll your GPS, Wi-Fi network or cell towers and instead of tagging your post with lat/long coordinates, it'll approximate your location with something like "Highpoint Mall" or "Yoni's Adult Megaempornium." It's geotagging in English instead of numbers, basically.

1:42: The service shows up as an web app in a tab, like Gmail or Google Voice. From the looks of it, and because of the geolocation features, I think this web app is going to be specific to iPhone, Android and Pre - it's leveraging some serious WebKit/HTML5 features here.

1:44: Oh! And it's going to be rolled into Google Maps, too, so you can see who's Buzzing around you, and update your Buzz from within the app. Google's building this into existing software, it seems, instead of rolling it out as a new, standalone app.

1:49: They're rolling video now, and I'll say this much: This makes sense. Status updates feel at home nested inside services people already use, like Gmail, and while the enforced brevity of Twitter has its upsides, Buzz makes Twitter's lack of media support look kind of stubborn. Plus, with Maps, Places, Gmail, Picasa, Google Reader and the 16273 other GProducts in Google Labs, these status updates have a lot more context, and a lot more to draw on. Then again, Facebook status updates have pleeeenty of context, and who the hell wants to use those?

1:51: Buzz is going live in a few minutes (2pm EST), but just for select journos. It'll go live for other soon after, but I'm not sure when. UPDATE: It's live for everyone, at least on mobile.

1:55: The first Buzz explain-o-promo video is out:

1:59: In its first version, Buzz will be able to suck updates from Twitter, but it won't be able to inject them into Twitter. They're interested in that, though!

2:02: Also, this is what Sergey Brin looks like when he's attempting to murder a popular web service: Orange.

2:06: Every journalist in the Q&A: So it's like Facebook and Twitter, right? Google: NEXT.

2:10: Well, that's that. Liveblog, blog'd. Google: Twitter'd. Twitter, scare'd.

While you've been here, the rest of Giz has been diving deeper into Buzz:

• For anyone who asks: What Is Buzz?

• Why location could make Buzz Google's new killer app

...and more to come.

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