Buzz Kill

By now, if you follow the technology world at all, or if you use Gmail, you’ve probably noticed a new thingy released by Google in the last few days. The thingy is called Google Buzz and it is billed to be a “status update” tool to allow your friends to know what you’re up to?

Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s supposed to be going after Twitter or some nonsense like that.

I enabled Buzz on my Gmail account and then promptly disabled it (you too can disable it, if it’s already turned on for you, by clicking on the “turn off Buzz” link in the footer of your Gmail account).

I’m going on record today to say that Google Buzz is and will continue to be an absolute failure. The reasons why are fourfold…

No one cares about the Google community

This thing is all about tying the Google community together, though they do have support for Twitter and Flickr as well because, well… no one can ignore those massive communities and have legs for the long run. People care about the YouTube community (a Google property). To a lesser extent, people care about the Blogger community (a Google property). No one cares about the Gmail community. It’s email!!! It’s not about community, it’s about utility and communication. Not community. I get spam in my Gmail. I get business conversations in my email. I get a searchable index of messages sent back and forth over the last five years in my Gmail. I don’t get community in my Gmail. The only community feature in Gmail is Google Talk and I don’t use that in Gmail. I use it in an IM client (Adium).

Google is too spread out to worry about community. They have products to meet needs and diversify web experiences, but their forays into community have sucked. Badly. Last time Google’s OpenSocial was a factor in the collaborative, community space was… oh, well, never. That’s dominated by Facebook. Not Google. Last time Picasa was an actual factor in the photography community was… oh that’s right… never. That’s controlled by Flickr.

And the next time Google tries to be a player in the “status update” community will be… oh, that’s right, never. That’s because Twitter dominates. Just ask Oh, and Facebook.

Friendfeed is still something small and irrelevant

Why do I bring up Friendfeed? Well, my argument against Friendfeed still exists. Even Louis Gray, one of the biggest historical champions of Friendfeed, acknowledges that it remains a small community. It never has and never will go mainstream. So why has Google essentially ripped Friendfeed off and expect different results?

Comment? Like? Sounds familiar…. Oh, Facebook and Friendfeed do that.

Buzz is insecure

It’s well documented at this point that Buzz is actually pretty insecure. Because it operates out of Gmail, it assumes that your most frequently emailed people should automatically be friends. Except that that assumption is inherently insecure because friends are publicly viewable. Take these hypothetical situations for instance:

  • Bill has been corresponding with a major possible client under NDA. For any number of reasons, the communication should not be revealed to the public. Yet, due to the volume of email between Bill and his contact, his contact is automatically made a Buzz contact.
  • Kelly is negotiating an acquisition of a company. If this information were public, the deal could be off.
  • John is trying to take his wife on a big, secret getaway for her 40th birthday. In emailing with a variety of resorts over the period of several weeks, those resort contacts become part of John’s publicly viewable community.

Are we seeing the problem here? This is like Facebook Beacon all over again.

Why add more workflow and more social networks?

The argument has been made in favor of Buzz that Google has a huge Gmail userbase to jump off of. While this is true, this is one more area of workflow for users to utilize. Why do it? We have YouTube and Flickr and Twitter and Facebook? Do we really anticipate Buzz being added to the repertoire? I think not.

Buzz will have the same result as most other social networks: it will die. Very few have legs because very few are innovative and do new things. Twitter was an accidental success because it innovated on the concept of microcontent over SMS… yes, that’s how it started. Buzz is just one more has been and offers nothing new. It will stay in the bowels of early adopter-hood until it is forgotten.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Update: VentureBeat reports that Google has tweaked their privacy settings.

14 Replies to “Buzz Kill”

  1. Interesting comments. You’re probably right. It seems odd to me that with such a quiet, invite-only buildup of GWave, that they would roll this out to everyone.

    A friend of mine suggests it’s possibly to work to take some value out of other social networking sites like Twitter.

    Might want to correct your spelling of Picasa, as well.


  2. Aaron, thanks for explaining it in a pretty straightforward way. Some people who are technology enthusiasts (not technologists) can jump the bandwagon and be innovators or early adopters just for the sake of being an innovator or early adopter.

    The bottom line for the rest of us is “why switch?” My switching “costs” are great now that I have hundreds of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter contacts (although I am in regular contact with a fraction of that)

    In other words, what’s the “hook” that will get someone over to a new platform at this point in time? Unless they spin a value proposition I can’t refuse, the pain of switching outweighs the benefits of whatever their platform offers.

    Many of us are overloaded with shiny objects and unless this helps us in a revolutionary way (isn’t that what FB and Twitter have already done?), Google Wave and Google Buzz should be re-bundled together and called Google Yawn.

  3. My. Thoughts. Exactly.

    Just after Buzz’s release, I saw a tweet (from a techno-celebrity who shall remain nameless) who proclaimed that it would “kill Facebook”. My thought was, “Seriously?”

    Many on Twitter, etc. forget that the average user on Facebook has never even HEARD of Google Buzz (in fact, “What’s this BUZZ thing?” is the single most popular update IN Buzz right now) and doesn’t give a poo about “building community” on yet another social site. Most of their users don’t “get” Twitter and, more to the point, have no interest in “getting” Twitter. The notion that these people will leave Facebook in droves to use a platform that doesn’t do nearly as much is just silly.

  4. I disagree that Buzz is just another status update tool. I have found, in using Buzz the past few days, that I have been able to have great conversations that wouldn’t have happened on twitter or facebook. I believe Buzz to be about conversations and that may be part of the reason why it is closely tied to Gmail.

    While I also disagree that Buzz will be an absolute failure, I do understand that it has many shortcomings. But hey, it was only released a few days ago. Since Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, etc. have become more popular and more widely adopted many of us think that we are now social networking experts and can look at a new social network and tell if it will become popular on not. Turn Buzz back on and actually use it for a week or two and find the good things that it brings to the table that other social networks don’t currently offer.

    : )

  5. Actually, I’ve been working on a theory going the other direction. By looking and the public traffic between two people (primarily Twitter), you can start detecting the strongest connections.

    As those connections become something more – romantic relationships, project collaborations, business deals, friendships – those interactions move to other channels which are more suited to the inner details… IM, email, IRC, whatever. With the stuff I have, I’ve been able to *detect* that a transition has been made, but the other side of the situation is lost.

    Buzz changes the game and makes the connection portion public. Sure, I still don’t have the content/context but there are enough other sources of public information available, I can make some educated guesses.

    Sometime I’ll tell you how to use Delicious+Linked In for nefarious purposes. ;)

    1. I have to sort of agree with Keith here. Google Buzz has allowed me to skip the whole direct message aspect of Twitter and those I ALREADY connect with and use Buzz/Gmail to move faster.

  6. Brave thoughts to take a pop shop at a Google initiative.

    No doubt it has its problems but Google can throw bucks and resources at this project.

    The uptake from gmail users will be large so it has a head start on many social platforms.

    Early days to write it off now.

  7. I would also like to say that Google Buzz will probably grow with the LATE ADOPTERS – not the early ones. Right now all the cool kids are testing out Buzz. But really it will be the people who have been meaning to “get around” to using Twitter that will all of sudden see an easier learning curve with Buzz without creating another account.

  8. You can also connect Buzz with twitter. If somebody Buzzes you see that on twitter too. If you already have twitter why would you use buzz?

    Google only does this because they can and they are that big that maybe they can get away with it as well. There are alot of people who are using gmail, so alot of exposure.

  9. These social media apps are too many to really get the most of them. Some of them are used by SEO experts and some are used by technology buffs and some are used even by real people. The trouble is that sinse there are too many of them that your friends should be using them all. Google has few pretty good apps but even though they just gave me the Google Apps for free ($50/year) I have no intention to start using them.

  10. I think it will be a success. As others allready mentioned. They have a LOT of gmail users which will at least try Buzz. And like Peter allready wrote. You can connect it with twitter. And I wouldn’t be surprised if google will own twitter in a few months

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