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Google modernizes Net community service

Discussion-group service Google Groups gets update, will become widely available to Web surfers Thursday.

Google has enhanced its discussion-group service, Google Groups, and on Thursday will make the updates widely available to Web surfers. The new service lets people create e-mail discussion groups and mine information from them, and builds on the company's Web-based groups.

Google, which has transformed itself from a pure search provider to a do-all Web portal in recent years, said the expanded service will now be open to millions of people from its home page, as opposed to the thousands who tested it from Google Labs during the previous six months. Google Groups is the third most popular service the company offers, following Web and image search. The updated free service grants users a personalized home page, with e-mail or Web updates on their topics' discussion. Moderators can name groups with common language such as "Disney Parks," vs. Usenet names like "rec.arts.disney.parks." Google makes money on the service by placing contextual ads next to subscribers' postings.