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Google’s Secret Social Initiative Delayed Until Spring 2011 [EXCLUSIVE]

Google’s big social initiative, once thought to be a full-fledged social network named “Google Me,” is experiencing delays that have pushed back the launch until spring 2011.

Mashable has learned that Google’s big social play could debut in March or April, a far cry from earlier rumors that pegged a 2010 launch date.

The project is a top-secret affair, even within the company. It is being led by Vic Gundotra, one of the company’s public faces and a VP of engineering.

“We’re always experimenting with new ways to improve our products, and we have already confirmed that we are focused on incorporating social elements across Google,” a Google spokesperson told us when reached for comment. “But we have nothing new to announce at this time.”

The rumors were running wild earlier this year about Google Me. According to chatter, at the time, it was going to be a “full, first-class social network” designed as a direct competitor to Facebook. A few months later though, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated that the company is actually building social components into Google’s core products.

“If you think about it, it’s obvious. With your permission, knowing more about who your friends are, we can provide more tailored recommendations. Search quality can get better,” Schmidt said at the time.

So what is causing the delay? The likely culprit is disagreement on the design, purpose and execution of the project. One of our sources told us that he/she has heard “tales of disorganization and too many different teams working parallel or in conflict.”

Google’s social initiative was sparked by the threat Facebook presented to its domination of the web. Facebook’s growth has spooked Google’s leadership. When Facebook learned of the search giant’s plans, it responded by entering “lockdown” for 60 days, where the company focused on completing new features like Facebook Messages, Facebook Places and Facebook Groups.

Beyond YouTube, Google has a poor track record in social, part of the reason why it acquired Slide and Ångströ. The delay of Google’s big social initiative is yet another black eye for the company and another win for a certain social network based out of Palo Alto.

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