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Google Gmail press conference (live blog)

We're heading to the Googleplex to find out what's happening to Gmail. Earlier reports have pointed to Google taking on Twitter. Tune in to find out if that's true.

Google is hosting a press conference at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters Tuesday morning at which it is widely expected to make a Gmail-related announcement--more specifically, that it's getting social features along the lines of Twitter and Facebook's status updates. Considering Google's quiet killing of Jaiku, a Twitter-like service it bought in 2007, it should be interesting to see what the company envisions as the ideal social-sharing tool.

The event starts at 10:00 a.m. PST, and I'll be in the audience to post live updates of whatever the new product is and how it will work, along with trying to answer any questions readers have. The embedded CoverItLive module below will go live whenever the event starts; in the meantime you can sign up to get an e-mail alert for when it does.

Update at 12:47 p.m. PST on February 10: In case you don't have Adobe Flash installed, or if you just want to see a larger version of what's available in the CoverItLive widget, we've pasted the entirety of the live blog after the page break.

Pre-show chatter

Tuesday February 9, 2010 at 9:54 PST: Good morning everyone. We're here and all set up. Press conference should start in about five minutes. If you have any questions or comments once we start, just leave 'em and I'll try to get to them when I have a free moment.

9:54: [Comment From Rob:] Big crowd?


Josh Lowensohn/CNET

9:55: @Rob it's filling out :D

9:56: [Comment From Kevin: ] Any themes on stage? The logos for Gmail or Wave?


Josh Lowensohn/CNET

9:56: No gmail, but we've got an elmo projector, which means we're gonna see a phone demo.

9:57: [Comment From Chris: ] lots of android phones? nexii? in the audience?

9:57: Mostly Thinkpads and Macbooks, Chris.

9:57: [Comment From ron: ] what device are you using to send these updates?

9:58: Got a Nikon D90 tethered to Aperture, writing on a Macbook Pro, and publishing in CoverItLive.

9:58: [Comment From Will: ] What I am looking for from this is... Why do we need another social app? What makes Google's better or different...

9:58: Good question, Will. I think Google's gonna have to pitch that.

9:58: [Comment From Josh: ] is there a live video feed to watch?

9:59: Not sure. I know there's one for press. If someone wants to do a search and put it in the comments, I'll add it to the widget.

9:59: [Comment From Orangwutang: ] Please don't make that expression with your eyes anymore. It's scary.

9:59: No problem ;)

9:59: [Comment From Ryan: ] Any Music? What does the GMail team listen to?

10:00: Right now it's some easy listening. I'd use Midomi but I'm busy writing :D

10:00: [Comment From Emmanuel Bretón: ] Hello from Dominican Republic, waiting for the new news :)

10:00: [Comment From Dustin: ] new meme, "the press conference shot" instead of "the myspace shot"

10:00: I think my angle was too low to be a MySpace shot. I also didn't up the contrast enough.

10:00: [Comment From Henry: ] Is Larry or Sergei there?

10:01: No, but former Microsofter, now Googler Don Dodge is. As is Google's flock of PR people.

10:01: [Comment From Hanna: ] any idea who will be presenting from Google's side?

10:01: I spotted Gmail Product Manager Todd Jackson earlier. That was to be expected though.

10:02: [Comment From Rob: ] You get any free swag for showing up?

10:02: Just a name badge, friend.

10:02: [Comment From Paul: ] https://www.youtube.com/feb0910googleevent

10:02: Thanks for that!

10:03: Can't embed it in CoverItLive, unfortunately.

10:04: [Comment From Jeff: ] Do they allow you or other journalists to ask questions at the end of events like this?

10:04: Yup, there will be a Q&A, which I'll try to transcribe.

10:04: [Comment From Victor: ] Do you think the feature will be rolled out instantly or added to Google Labs?

10:05: My bet is it will not be a Labs feature (just in beta).

10:05: [Comment From KDKD: ] Do they start these things on time?

10:06: Apparently not. Any minute now, though.


Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:09: Nexus One spotted

10:09: Just got a "few more minutes" notice from the Google folks.

10:09: [Comment From John: ] Hello from Scotland too!

10:10: [Comment From RexRex: ] Who's sitting in the upper deck -- is that overflow, or a gallery where Google employees can watch from above?

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:10: Have fun IDing these folks

10:11: [Comment From Veronica: ] Just wondering what the vibe is like there, Apple'ish?

10:11: Kind of. Except there's a power outlet and Wi-Fi.

10:12: And likely no tablets.

10:13: [Comment From Dan: ] How long is the conference expected to take - are we looking at an hr-long Apple event or 15 mins, Goog style?

10:13: Probably 45 mins or so. News + demo + Q&A

10:13: [Comment From Jose: ] What are you using to take pics? You get the images up so quickly.

10:14: CoverItLive--lets you upload shots and stick them in here.

10:14: [Comment From mchaty: ] This would be a big FAIL in Switzerland - more than 11 minutes late, insane!!

10:14: The Google Train is now starting

Start of the conference

10:15: Bradley Horowitz up, vice president of product management

10:16: "Something exciting to share with you."


Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:16: You want to hear it in real time. I bet many of you are blogging this in real time [yes]

10:16: "We don't think it should be so much work to find the right audience."

10:17: "Moments of your life are the most precious thing, and there are more distractions. New tools and techniques to focus attention."

10:18: "A couple of Yahoos thought they could org. the Web by hand." Talking about org. the Web as a directory. And the rise of algorithmic search engines. "Things were still pretty bad then."

10:18: "It was still very hard to find what you were looking for...then came Google."

10:18: [Comment From Dan Froelich: ] #googlsoc is another one

10:18: Thanks, Dan

10:19: "When you had 50 friends, you could hunt in a pack with those friends and let that stream wash over you...but when you have 500, 5,000 friends it's becoming very difficult."

10:19: "You may think 5k friends sounds like a lot...but when I say friends I mean people I'm connected to in some way."

10:20: "It's not unreasonable to think that this will continue growing."

10:20: This has become a large-scale problem...the kind of problem we like at Google.

10:20: Today we're going to launch something called Google Buzz.


Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:21: Gmail Product Manager Todd Jackson is up now.

10:21: And wearing a Google Buzz T-shirt...

10:22: New way to share inside of Gmail

10:22: 5 features:
1. Auto-following. First time you use the product you automatically follow the people you e-mail or chat with.
2. "Rich, fast sharing experience." Includes media, keyboard shortcuts, Twitter updates, "all the things users like to share often."
3. "Public and private sharing." Public entries indexed into Google's search.
4. "In-box integration"
5. "Just the good stuff." A relevancy filter to highlight only top items.

10:24: Demo time--might want to watch the YouTube video link to see this.

10:25: Looks similar to Google Reader.


Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:26: Users can like things--just like in Facebook and FriendFeed.

10:26: Custom-built photo viewer:

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:26: In-line YouTube viewing:

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:27: Photo viewer looks kind of like Flickr's.

10:28: Jackson's been doing the entire demo with keyboard shortcuts--all of which are the same that they are in Gmail.

10:28: The post box:

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:29: Where will these updates show up when made public? Your Google profile, of course. (Hope you nabbed a good username URL)

10:29: Posts can be made public or private.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:29: Users said it was "too hard" to change privacy settings on other services, Google says.

10:30: Any item in Buzz can become a conversation. "This is one of the most interesting parts of the product," Jackson says.

10:30: In-box is not just e-mail anymore--Buzz items show up too--with a little Buzz icon. What a conversation looks like:

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:31: New updates show up without refreshing the page.

10:32: Three ways to get notified:
1. Comment on your stuff.
2. People comment on your comments
3. People do @ reply.

@ replies in Google Buzz. Josh Lowensohn/CNET
More @ replies and threadding. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:34: Recommended Buzz: Google has an engine that learns people's likes and dislikes.

Recommendations in Buzz. Josh Lowensohn/CNET
Recommendations explained. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:35: Mobile demo now.

10:35: Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering, is up.

Vic Gundotra, Google's VP of Engineering. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:37: Gundotra says status updates have the same kind of information relevancy problem that Web sites do.

10:37: Making a comparison to phone conversations: we call someone and ask, "where are you at?" Gundotra says location is a key to relevancy.

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:39: Gundotra says it works well because of Google's investment in location.

10:39: Three new product experiences: Buzz from Google.com, Buzz.google.com, and Google Maps for Mobile.

10:42: When using m.Google.com from a phone with GPS, it translates latitude and longitude into a place, the same way it does for location in local results.

10:42: Gundotra just demoed it on a Nexus One using the speech-to-text functionality.

10:44: Sorry about the delay here, had some technical difficulties with the camera.

Buzz on mobile phones. Josh Lowensohn/CNET
Google Maps users will see a new Buzz layer soon. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:45: New layer in Google Maps. Users can update right from the Maps app (on Android, that is---dunno when it's coming to iPhone). These updates are geo-tagged and show up in Google Maps. (possibly creepy):

Josh Lowensohn/CNET

10:47: Video rolling now.

10:48: Google co-founder Sergey Brin spotted on the sidelines. He could be up next.

10:49: "But wait, there's more." Horowitz says. An enterprise version of Buzz will be announced later this year.

10:50: "We're going to do everything we can to make this play well within the ecosystem."

10:50: Product launched at 11 a.m. to Gmail users.

10:51: Rolling out to everyone over the next few days.


10:52: Q: Privacy and safety implications. How safe is Buzz?

10:52: Jackson: public and private settings are there for everyone. You can also pick specific people you want to share with.

10:53: Q: Integration with Wave?
A: Yes, integration possibilities..."it's a logical next step."

10:54: Q: Implications on Google Latitude? A: Gundotra says it's just a layer. The two will be integrated more tightly in the future.

10:55: Q: Are you going to duplicate FriendFeed features? Like RSS, API?
A: Jackson--we try not to pay too much attention to other companies as much as users. That was the #1 thing that inspired it.

10:55: Gundotra also says Buzz will be as open as possible. Open APIs that "respect the user's decisions."

10:55: Pubsubhub support out of the box. Over the next few weeks and months over Google I/O, the company is looking at other standard support.

10:56: Public Buzz posts are readily available on PubSubHub API.

10:57: Q: How is this tied into other sources?
A: Everything public goes to Google profile. As for private things, those things show up on your private Gmail account.
Q: Facebook connect?
A: Nothing to announce at this time.

10:58: Q: People also make phone calls, so could you tie a telephone conversation into Buzz? Maybe with Google Voice?
A: Gundotra says Buzz is the first step in integrating Gmail more deeply with other Gmail products. Horowitz said, "I'd love to phone in my Buzz."

10:59: Q: What have you learned from past social failures?
A: Brin: Social services on the Internet have undergone a number of improvements. Notably Orkut--which has had far more adoption in competitors' geographies. This is another very compelling evolution where you have a meeting of social communication and productivity. Other services have focused on friends & entertainment, whereas Buzz has provided more productivity internally.

11:01: Q: Looks so much like Facebook...people do spend a lot of time on social networks. People go there and do social games and entertainment. Do you see opening this up to third-party tools?
A: Horowitz says that in our own internal use we've seen that as the case.

11:01: (that didn't really answer the question)

11:02: Q: I can use Buzz as a publishing tool for Twitter?
A: You can't publish out to Twitter, but you can pull in.

11:02: Q: How to avoid spam? Is this going to be a problem?
A: Jackson says "we've thought long and hard about this." Buzz items go through the same spam filtering tools for Gmail.

Google's VP of Product Management, Bradley Horowitz. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:03: Horowitz says: We have algorithms to keep items you probably won't care about from making it to the top.

11:04: Q: Is there a specific list of social services you can add?
A: When you post in Buzz, you create a Google profile. You can also give it a custom name. Followers will be posted on your profile, too, but you can choose to hide them.

11:04: Jackson says Flickr, Twitter, Picasa Web, YouTube, and Blogger. Also personal RSS feeds. "As generic and open as possible."

11:06: Q: By watching what people are doing, does this create problems on personal Web search?
A: Brin on biz productivity--posted an op/ed about Google Books a while back to Buzz instead of sending to an editor. Made adjustments based on the comment thread.

11:06: Public/private settings are sticky. So it remembers your preferences between sessions.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:07: You can search within just Buzz items.

11:08: Q: There's this thing that Twitter had for a couple of minutes called Track. Subscribed search...is that going to be available?
A: Jackson, that's a cool idea. We're going to listen to users, find the ones that are highest ranked. That's certainly one of them.

11:08: Q: How are you going to try to sell this to companies?
A: We're not announcing anything yet. It's going to be a v1 release...and it will be soon. "We are absolutely committed to doing the enterprise version," Horowitz said.

11:11: Q: If Orkut was more successful here in the U.S., and Facebook wasn't the top dog, would you have really created this?
A: Brin--When I was in H.S. I ran a BBS, and I wrote my own set of scripts that people could post things. And it was horribly unsuccessful for any number of reasons. And there were 1,000 things like that. As the Internet has evolved, we've seen a lot more successful communication means...Friendster, Usenet groups, etc.

So we look at this as a part of a longer term evolution, and we're trying to put together the best set of features, both from a technical point of view, and from a social point of view. What is the best way to track interaction? I hope the trend we've seen that every couple years something new and revolution emerges...I certainly expect and hope that trend to continue.

11:11: All right, folks, that's it. I'm going to stick around for a couple minutes and work through this backlog of comments.

11:12: Be sure to read my colleague Tom Krazit's story on Buzz.

11:13: [Comment From Duncan Kenzie: ] What about availability in domain-specific Google Apps?

11:13: That's likely something that will be included in the enterprise version.

11:13: [Comment From GuestGuest: ] Google Reader?

11:13: Yes, that will be included as a feed option too.

If your account is ready to use it, you get this message. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET
The first screen Buzz users see. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

11:20: [Comment From anonymous coward: ] any plans for gmail/google wave intergration?

11:20: Google said that's something it's "interested in," so maybe.

11:21: [Comment From MinaMina: ] How is it different than wave?

11:22: Good question. The answer is that posted items exist as a single piece of content with an attached conversation instead of a conversation that's split up into segments. It's also not collaborative in the sense that Wave is. In Wave you can go in and fix people's typos, whereas with Buzz you can just make fun of them for it in the comments. That make sense? The two are definitely country cousins though.

11:22: [Comment From 0redspiral0: ] So you can't post updates to Twitter from Google Buzz?

11:23: That's correct. You can suck in your tweets though, as well as all those from people you're following.

11:24: All right, folks. I'm gonna head back to CNET HQ to get my sticky mitts on this for a hands-on. Thanks for tuning in and asking some great questions.