Google has always been interested in social networking; Orkut was one of the first successful social networking portals out there, and Google snapped it up. Orkut never really quite made it past niche markets in India and Brazil though. But Google still had its core search business that had never been stronger. But in a world where it is beginning to emerge that social networking like Facebook can in some cases overtake basic search in raw Internet usage share, and a world where people prefer the links they come by on their social networking forages over searching for things themselves, Google has been taking a good hard look at gaining a presence here for itself – as a way of hedging against future eventualities. Last Tuesday, Google finally came through on its social networking promise, with Google Buzz; a way that lets Gmail account holders pass around photos, videos, and general updates.

Google Buzz is going to be an added feature on Gmail, and not an independent service. This gets it started on an excellent user base right on its first day. All of Gmail’s 176 million users, will automatically find themselves on Buzz, and their friends circle on Buzz will be their most frequently e-mails contacts. So what does someone do on Buzz? The same thing as any other standard Facebook clone – users post their status, they post their pictures from Picasa, their videos from YouTube, and of course, messages from Twitter. If you look at it, Buzz seems to look like it got a lot of inspiration from Facebook; and the real Facebook, certainly has a lot to worry about now.

Trying to out-Facebook Facebook may not really work at this stage though; Facebook has had a six-year headstart, and has 400 million users. How much banality can people share at one time? But Google actually feels that overloading people with banal information is the way it can become relevant. Google’s search and relevancy algorithms, they feel, are going to make Buzz so easy to use in a time when people have a superfluity of information to sift through; Google’s powerful search filters can pick the needle of interest out of the haystack of irrelevance so well that people will want to leave Facebook behind.

Facebook is trying to step into Google’s home turf too for its part – into instant messaging. Facebook plans to use the Jabber protocol to allow other instant message services, to integrate with Facebook’s own. AOL’s AIM will be the first. AIM users will log into Facebook right through their familiar AIM environment, and directly find out about which Facebook friends are available to message to. Facebook’s game, it is clear, is no longer to just be a website that people go to mess with friends on. They want to be Internet infrastructure; they want to be the behind-the scenes social networking foundation people end up using whenever they need to get in touch with their friends, no matter what website they go to.