Much has been made about what Google is going to offer for a gaming strategy, particularly considering the company has been hiring online gaming experts.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) may have offered a peek at what's to come July 14 with Google News badges, little showings of spirit that users may earn by reading articles about sports, technology, science and other topics.
There are more than 500 badges available, spanning various topics of news. Users begin with bronze, then move on to silver, gold, platinum and then "ultimate" as their volume of news reading grows. So if a user likes reading about baseball, his or her badge level will increase with every story clicked on.
Users may also craft custom sections by hovering over a badge and clicking "add section." Google News badges require users to be signed into their Google account and have their Web history enabled. Desktop and mobile clicks will earn users badges.
Badges will "level up" faster if a user reads a few relevant articles every day, rather than trying to read everything at once. Users who read a few articles a day about favorite topics will earn their first badge in about a week. Users can also click on a badge to see articles that will help the badge reach its next level.
Badges are private by default. However, Google has made it possible for readers to share badges with their friends by clicking the +1 button and other sharing options for recommending content. See this video on how it works.
When users share a badge, it shows only their badge's name and level, as well as the rough number of articles a user has read about the badge's topic. Key for user privacy is that people with whom a user shares badges will not see the specific articles a user has read.
Google News badges may show how Google plans to take baby steps toward rolling in more gaming functionality across the platform.
One could easily imagine the company providing badges for other Web services, perhaps messages read and returned on Gmail or participation in Google+ Hangouts. Perhaps virtual currency will eventually be rolled up into such services to spur participation.
Google News users should also expect to see Google News integrated with the Google+ social network, as eWEEK speculated. Users could share stories they liked on +, helping readers boost their badge status.
Google also separated its technology section from its science section for all English editions and merged personalization settings from the News for you section and News Settings menu into one sidebar at the top right corner of the home page.