There were two announcements from web giants this week that represent, to me, an interesting trend. First, Google announced Google Buzz, which is basically their take on Twitter-style social networking. (I think they've completely missed the point, but that's really a topic for another post.) Second, Facebook has extended their Facebook Chat system to use XMPP, making it a fully-fledged IM system that you can use through many chat clients. (One nice thing that most people don't know about XMPP: you can log in from several locations simultaneously, and messages [even your own replies] go to all locations. None of this AIM-style nonsense with prompting you to log off, or needing multiple accounts.) They've also announced that they're extending Facebook messages into a full email service, with POP and SMTP access.
So why's this interesting? Two of the largest players on the web today have announced services that cover ground the other already does pretty well - Google is basically copying the way Facebook's wall works (and also Twitter, to some extent), and Facebook is copying Google Talk and GMail. In some sense, GMail's interface and Facebook's home page are both evolving into the same kind of social networking site, from completely different directions.
It's no secret that Facebook wants to be the next Google, so that part isn't really surprising. By itself, the fact that they're extending their chat and messaging services is news, but not a trend. What caught me off guard was Google's move, and it got me thinking. I'd always dismissed Facebook's ambitions - we already have one Google, and this Internet ain't big enough for another one. But Facebook isn't looking to replace Google's core business; they're looking to have the same kind of dominance in the social networking space that Google has in the search space. Google understands this, and isn't going to take it lying down.
(Aside: Twitter isn't part of this trend, but that's not really surprising. In my mind, Twitter is the Sarah Palin of social networks - became famous by a fluke, inexplicably popular despite a total lack of substance and many embarrassing failures, considers simplicity a virtue even when it's a liability, unable to cope with a sudden rise to prominence, receives more than its/her fair share of media attention.)