Google News is now offering users in the U.S. the ability to earn shareable badges for voraciously reading news and articles on topics ranging from politics to Harry Potter.
The new badges are available in levels from Bronze to Silver, Gold, Platinum, and, at the top, Ultimate, according to Google's blog entry. There are 500 different badges to earn in this beta - or "bronze release," as Google puts it.
The badges are private by default, buit users can easily share them with friends from your signed-in Google account. Google says that the badges are there to start conversations, demonstrate expertise in a topic, or "just plain brag about how well-read you are." Click a badge and you can create your own section with stories qualifying for that section appearing on-the-fly.
Google is hinting that after this field test, badges will be going to the "next level." It's not hard to see how that could mean some kind of Google+ social network interaction. After all, Google Profiles already include a "Bragging Rights" section.
This concept should be sounding especially familiar to Microsoft Xbox 360 gamers: Google News badges are essentially Xbox Live "gamerscore," the popular social currency that lets players compare how many "achievements" they've hit. Gamerscore and achievements were such a hit that the concepts were adopted in various forms across Xbox 360 competitors like the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Steam digital distribution platform.
Of course, those are for video games. Reading the news is, pardon the pun, a completely different story. But we'll see how users respond to the gamification of Google News.