The Buzz About The Buzz About Google Buzz

By Curtis Dicken

Introduction to Google Buzz

Just recently Google released yet another new service called Google Buzz. As expected, Google Buzz generated a great deal of conversation and comparison. Questions like “Is it better than Twitter?” and “Is it like Facebook?” and even “Do we need more social networking options?”. In this article we’ll take a look at not just the product itself but the conversation surrounding it as well.

Buzz: The Overview

Google Buzz in its desktop form is merely a social networking extension of Gmail. If you are already a Gmail user then Buzz should have already magically appeared on your account and told you how cool it is. It adds a Buzz link and icon in with the rest of your Gmail navigation. From within Buzz you can post comments to private groups or the general public, follow people, comment on other people’s posts, email posts, share images and videos, and do some other general social networking stuff. There is also integration (albeit limited in some cases) with a handful popular social websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Picasa.

The mobile version of Google Buzz offers many of the same features as the desktop version plus location data. It uses Google Maps, imagine that, to let you know where a tagged post or group of posts were made. You can also view posts near a location that you choose or around your current location. You can even post from your phone by simply speaking your content and Buzz will convert your comments into text.

The Buzz

As with just about every product that Google has ever pushed out the door, Google Buzz has generated a great deal of discussion and speculation. Compound that “normal” buzz with the fact that Google chose to release Buzz without ever issuing a beta release, it’s not hard to imagine why everyone seems to have a comment. When I first heard about Google Buzz being released I immediately wondered why I hadn’t heard much about it before. I wondered how I could have missed the beta release. As it turns out there was a reason for that.

In reading the reviews and comments that have compiled to date it looks like Google Buzz has just two camps, like it and hate it. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground with people’s opinions. Those that like it cite the integration with Gmail and the ease of use with searching, following and posting. Those that hate it cite lack of rich features, lack of integration with some notable social sites like Facebook, and bugs they’ve encountered.

The Critique

Google Buzz is an interesting and unexpected product. While it only makes sense that Google would want a piece of the social web pie, it’s surprising that Buzz was released without ever going through beta testing. As we all know, beta stands for Barely Executing Temporary Application but it gives developers a chance to get feedback and discover problems that will only occur when an application experiences a heavy use. There is a good chance that Google could have avoided some of the flak they are currently taking for the “bugginess” of Buzz if they had opted to make a beta release.

By intentionally excluding certain social websites, most notably Facebook, Google is sending a message as to their intent with Buzz. Whether it is be intentional or not, most see this product as serving notice to Facebook that Google intends to be on the playground. If it was Google’s intent to cause a stir and get some press then they have most definitely succeeded. Like the old adage says, any press is good press.

Buzz does have some good things working for it, though. The features that it does have are great for the social web beginner. You are not overwhelmed with a million different options and settings. For the most part, features are intuitive and work well with Gmail. It’s easy to post and follow other people’s posts, which is essentially the core of the social web.

About the Buzz on Google Buzz

The topics of discussion on Google Buzz are quite wide ranging but most focus on three topics:

Google Buzz vs. Facebook – As I discussed above, the fact that Facebook integration is curiously absent on Google Buzz has probably caused more discussion than anything else. Will Google Buzz be the newer better thing that causes Facebook’s numbers to dwindle much like what happened to MySpace? Probably not, especially with its current feature set. Although, Google now has plenty of commentary to mull over before deciding how Google Buzz will expand and blend in to the social web landscape.

Where are the features?Google Buzz is a good basic opener on to the social web scene but lacks some features that social web junkies really crave. That being said, you can bet that Google is taking all the criticism in and will begin releasing new features before you know it.

Will Google Buzz survive? – Not everything Google is wildly successful. Take Google Wave for example. While an intriguing concept, Google Wave did not take off like Google hoped. Does this mean that Google Buzz is destined to obscurity as well? Should Google just stay out of the social networking scene? Although Google could have most definitely benefited by a beta release and more robust features, Buzz is by no means dead yet. Expect to see additions to Buzz over the next several months.

Conclusion

Since Google Buzz popped on to the scene it has been getting exactly what its name states, a great deal of buzz. Whether you love it or hate it Google Buzz is likely to be around for a while. You will have to stay tuned to see if future releases of Buzz are enough to sway the social networking populace over to Google. If you want to try out Google Buzz for yourself you can find out more at buzz.google.com.



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