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Google novelties and the social web

I read earlier today (Google Talkabout) that if you set your GMail settings to 'US English' then GTalk would update to offer file transfer and voicemail — and also offer to show what music you're currently listening to. And it has, and it does:

I've tested the Voicemail facility, by the way, and it works beautifully: very simple to use (both to record/send and to receive/open) and it produces a very clear recording. (The 'Meep' is something we'll surely grow tired of very quickly, but it did remind me of the guy whose answer machine ran, 'Leave a message after the sheep'. So many people never stopped laughing after the 'Baa' that he had to change his greeting in order to get any messages.)

Changing the language settings also altered the top left of my screen in GMail:

Is this also new, or "just" something that's been there for a while for US users?

Picasaweb is beginning to attract some interest (and the purchase of Neven Vision adds spice). firsttube concluded a comparative review of Flickr and Picasaweb:

In the end, flickr and Picasaweb provide different things and a comparison isn't as apropos as you'd think. Picasa integrates with your current tools (Picasa on Win and Linux, iPhoto on Mac) and creates a simple interface to share and organize your photos. Flickr's strength comes from its thriving Web 2.0 community and collaboration and search. If you are seeking a place to store your online photos, either service will likely serve you perfectly well.

Ultimately, I have chosen Picasa because Flickr's interface is just too clunky for quickly accessing specific photos when you have a large number of photos in your photostream. However, I still use flickr, and fairly avidly, because the communities are great and the number of photos is simply astounding. It comes down to the fact that Picasaweb is a personal experience and flickr is a group one, and what I'm looking for for my photos is a simple way to show them to my family.

For me, the me/group distinction is telling. Richard MacManus posted yesterday, : 'A lot of people think the social aspect of this era of the Web is its defining characteristic. And judging by all the news above, it's hard to argue against that! It's fantastic too that Apple is getting into the spirit of things, while Microsoft and Yahoo continue to set the pace for the big companies. Social networking and Google are uneasy bedfellows, but hopefully even they will get into the act soon.'

So I was particularly interested in Google Video shifting in a more social direction, as Ben also noted:

Techcrunch has screenshots of the new Google Video interface. Google Video, of course, is Google’s Youtube competitor - which is faring badly in comparison. At first glance, aside from a page reformat, there are two features, either new or made significantly more prominent - comments, and “more from this user” - that Youtube has always had. In short, in order to compete, Google has added people into the mix.

Suddenly the dynamic changes. It’s not just a bucket where you throw video and hope someone will see it; people can now share videos with each other within the interface, and if you like one submission from a user, you can see everything else they’ve contributed. Rather than just the technology, it becomes a more social ecosystem, allowing users to filter content through other people they might be interested or have something in common with.

It will, indeed, be interesting to see how Google develops in the more human era of the social web.

Update: Google Talkabout has an excellent posting about the new features ('The new Google Talk features … have completed testing and are now available to everyone' — everyone? Other language users? US English users only?) written by one of their software engineers, here.

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