Web abuzz on talk of Google Facebook killer

Internet whirling with talk of 'Google Me,' a service that would rival Facebook

Speculation is spreading around the Web that Google Inc. is building a site that could be a Facebook-killer.

The talk spreading virally online is that Google is developing a social networking service, dubbed Google Me. The rumor started to fly after Digg founder Kevin Rose posted a tweet Saturday, saying, "Ok, umm, huge rumor: Google to launch facebook competitor very soon 'Google Me,' very credible source."

Rose hasn't offered any more tweets on the subject, and Google refused to respond to the report on Monday.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc., said that even though baseless rumors can spread like wildfire on the Internet, he found this one interesting.

"At this point, it's just a rumor -- one of many that circulate constantly in the industry, particularly around something hot like social networking," he added. "But if anyone has the reach and resources to be a strong competitor to Facebook right off the bat, it's Google. They have the technical ability to build a solid engine, plus the resources to be able to scale it out right away."

Olds also noted that Google has the clout to pull in a significant number of users very quickly. It might not attract enough people to put a dent in Facebook's user base of more than 400 million right away, but it would be able to get off to a strong start.

"Google will get a certain number of users right away just because they are Google and it would, assumedly, integrate with their existing apps," Olds said.

The rumor might also be gaining strength simply because Google, which started as a search service, is known to be expanding from its core business at a fast pace and in a growing number of directions.

For instance, last summer, Google announced that it was developing an operating system called Chrome OS. Then last September, it released its Google Wave collaboration tool, taking another step away from its search roots.

Google has also extended its reach into the mobile phone arena with its Android operating system for mobile phones and its Google-branded and designed Nexus One mobile phone, while also announcing that it plans to build what it calls ultra-high-speed broadband networks in some parts of the U.S.

The company also took a major swing at social networking sites Twitter and Facebook when it unveiled its Google Buzz upgrades to Gmail that make it more of a social networking hub and not just an e-mail service. Google Buzz is designed to help users find the most important information contained in their flood of social posts, pictures and video.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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