Google Buzz May Help Its Rivals More Than Itself

Did I just have a "Watson? Can you hear me?" moment, or another moment of online, over-sharing inanity?


The reason I ask is that I just sent my first status update from my Droid on the new Google Buzz. It read: "Testing buzz again. Is anyone out there?" (OK, on the first try, my phone rejected my update, so call it my second.)

So far, though, I'm a little clueless on how the navigation works (Buzz has yet to be added to my desktop Gmail), and it doesn't seem that anyone I know is on it. And I've waited a few hours. Maybe it's because of the snow day, or that we're only in day two of the world after Google Buzz was unleashed, but I do wonder if the true significance of Google Buzz will be in what it tells us about the future of social networking, even if that networking continues to take place mostly on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Like a latter-day arms race, it seems most of these platforms are headed in the same general direction, whether it's in offering email, or pumping up geo-location tools. Google Buzz, from a technological perspective, pushes social networking out almost as far as it can go, so maybe it will teach us just how much sharing we really want to do, where, and with whom.



The reason I don't think it will catch on like wildfire is that since Gmail is the central hub of Buzz, its universe appears somewhat limited. What I'm about to say is purely anecdotal, but the vast majority of people I know don't have Gmail accounts, or, if they do, they use it infrequently. Though I am a committed, even passionate, Gmail user, most of the people I socialize with on the Web aren't. And conversely, many of the people I know on Gmail aren't that active in the social networking world. They chose Gmail not because of its social networking potential but because it's an excellent email home base. Maybe that's why Buzz currently says I have a grand total of two followers.

One of the Buzz features that I like most, in fact, could also limit its potential to catch on: the ability to, on a per message basis, decide whether that message should be public or private, or include my location or not. Google Buzz makes it much easier to do that than some other social networking applications; it's a matter of clicking on a button.

Though my location today should be obvious (I'm at home due to the Northeast's snowstorm, with the kids downstairs preoccupied with the Wii), I really don't care for telegraphing where I am. I turned geo-location off -- and besides, before I did, it guessed that I was actually down the hill at the local pre-school. To which I say: "Of course not. It's a freakin' snow day, and my kids are out of the pre-school realm. Where's Google Weather, and Google We-Know-Ridiculous-­Amounts-About-Your-Children, when you need them?"

My point is that even though companies like Foursquare are hot right now, and some people have no problem with telling people where they are, at all times, it's not necessarily a mass application. It's not that most of us have all that much to hide, but, sheesh, I only want location-based anything to the degree it helps me. If there's a good deal at the local brasserie (not that the owner of the local brasserie even knows what Google Buzz is), I would like to know. But no need to share that I know this with everybody.

By making it so easy to turn off certain components, we may learn more about how far we want to stretch our personal sharing experiences, despite what the capabilities of the technology are. How many times have I toyed with decoupling my tweets from Facebook? Multiple times, but I'm too damn lazy or distracted to take the time to figure out how to do it. If choices on the distribution of my tweets could be made more easily on a case-by-case basis, it would change the way I network.

So, here's my down-low on Google Buzz: by pushing social networking technology close to its furthest point, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare will learn a thing or two, and continue blithely past Google in their steadfast march toward world domination.

(UPDATE: Google Buzz was added to my Gmail just as I was about to send my column. A quick perusal shows that most people don't see this as a Facebook or Twitter killer, and I, for one, became fatigued at the mere thought of another place to peruse status updates. All of this means it will be fun to check back on this in a few months and see if we were all right -- or wrong.)

4 comments about "Google Buzz May Help Its Rivals More Than Itself".
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  1. Swag Valance from Trash, Inc., February 10, 2010 at 3:03 p.m.

    To be honest, this sounds like a lot of the talk a few years ago from regular MySpace users for why they had no need for Facebook.

  2. Warren Lee from SEO-CUBED.COM, February 10, 2010 at 3:51 p.m.

    I agree to the last comment, I think Google Buzz will dominate social media next year! Here is more:

  3. Cynthia Edwards from Razorfish, February 10, 2010 at 3:54 p.m.

    Not everyone has a gmail email address, so that's a limiting factor right there in the uptake of Buzz. I have gmail but never use the gmail interface, which is full of ads. I foreward all gmails automatically to my Yahoo pro email, which I then view online in an ad-free window, or download to an email client.

    However, with the buggy and unpopular Facebook changes that dropped on users like a dirty bomb two days ago, maybe Buzz will give people some hope for the future, that there is an alternative to the goofballs at Facebook.

  4. Allen Maccannell from SenderOK, February 11, 2010 at 3:52 a.m.

    When I got Buzz this morning, I had 24 followers already. But most of them were spammers. Buzz does not yet allow users to peruse their followers according to the last thing the follower said or his or her bio. One has to click on a spammer and read what they have to say. This violates a fundamental dynamic of email and Twitter where spammers are most often recognized without the user having to click through...I repeat...there needs to be enough information presented to identify obvious spammers without the user having to click through.

    This is a very serious defect that Google can and must change immediately.

    I would also advise them to prioritize the presentation of followers who were already in your contact list as opposed to total strangers whose ability to have found my rarely used account frankly surprised and concerned me (I hadn't posted anything yet - if I had posted something, I would not be concerned about total strangers following me).

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