Google announced a new product today called Google Buzz, bringing credence to previous rumors that social networking features would be added to Gmail. Buzz is a service for sharing and talking about content. In the same way that the company calls Gmail “a Google approach to email,” it’s calling Buzz “a Google approach to sharing.”

Todd Jackson, a product manager for Gmail and Google Buzz, demonstrated the product on-stage at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. He highlighted five key features:

  1. Auto-following — Buzz is built into Gmail, so instead of forcing you to reform connections on new sites, it takes advantage of existing social connections and groups in Gmail.
  2. Rich, fast sharing experience — The Buzz content you share can be published manually or as a feed from your accounts on other services like Google Reader or Picasa. A lot of the Buzz experience seems optimized for sharing and viewing media such as photos and videos. For example, you can open a photo into a full-screen view, and flip through an entire photo album while in that full-screen view.
  3. Public and private sharing — You can share all this content publicly, on your Google Profile (at last, that might actually be useful!). You can also share it privately, with groups created in Gmail.
  4. Inbox integration — You don’t have to check into a separate site to see updates and shared content in Buzz. Instead, it shows up as another item in your email — users know it’s not just another email because the subject line will have a Buzz logo next to it. As you look at shared content, it will update in real-time with comments from other people it has been shared with, and you can also invite new people into a conversation using the “@” symbol, the same way you can in Twitter.
  5. Just the good stuff — Buzz delivers personalized recommendations on the content that you’ll like. Items that you might like (determined by past preferences, as well as the items that have spurred conversations and recommendations from your friends) show up as full items in a profile, while less interesting items are hidden, showing up as collapsed items that you need to open up to read.

There’s also a mobile component to Google Buzz, which we’ll cover in a separate post.