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On Tuesday Google launched Buzz, their attempt to breach the social media world. The service claims to organize multiple social media outlets by connecting them all to Buzz, which itself is integrated into Gmail. Google has gained some attention with the release of their new product, but unfortunately much of the feedback has been negative.

On their blog and in a Youtube video Google describes the perks of their service in detail. Basically, it boils down to a Twitter-esque feed without the character limit and integration with other services like Picasa, Flickr and Twitter. Google is definitely filling a void by combining features from all these sites, but as Read Write Web noted, it’s not a two-way road. Despite having account connectivity to Twitter, Buzz is unable to make posts on Twitter. That is, you can see your Twitter feeds on Buzz, but cannot post to Twitter through Buzz. The same RWW article also makes some interesting comments about Buzz’s features (or lack thereof).

Some of the missing features the RWW article discusses are lists and filters, fuzzy geo-location, slow importing, and additional third-party sites. Concerning the speed of third-party importing, the article said, “Given how much emphasis Google is putting on the real-time aspect of Buzz, it would be nice if these updates came in a lot faster.” While the features Buzz does offer sound good, it seems like they have a lot of kinks to work out. One blogger was pretty enraged by one feature in particular. When Buzz is initially activated, it automatically follows people that you have had the most contact with. For this woman, Buzz had both her and her abusive ex-husband following each other, potentially relinquishing some privacy and opening her up to more physical abuse. However, Google did what they could to fix the situation and have since changed some of the features on Buzz. Mishaps aside, overall the decision to implement Buzz into Gmail was a good one.

Google was really smart to add Buzz to Gmail for a few reasons. One, existing Gmail users are already added to the social network and don’t have to hassle with setting up a profile, etc. Two, integration into Gmail means that users don’t even have to navigate away from their mailbox to be distracted by social media activity. And three, it has the potential introduce a number of people interested in the service to the Google family. But a social media outlet created by engineers doesn’t necessarily equal success.

Let me make one thing clear – Google has some amazing services. Search, Gmail, Google Docs and Voice, and even Google Wave are all extremely useful and high quality products. But, those services have fewer competitors, at least in terms of popularity. I can’t imagine entering the social media market this late in the game, when Facebook alone has 400 million users (~6% of the world’s population, ~25% of worldwide internet users), as of about a week ago. Though I’m sure a good percentage of that number could be chalked up to fake accounts, etc., it’s still a huge, huge amount of people. Gmail’s membership is only a fraction of Facebook’s, and multiple email accounts are probably much more common than multiple Facebook profiles. Google has a lot of work ahead of them if they plan to take on Facebook.

Having said that, on Thursday Google released some crazy statistics and added features on their blog. Working off that post, Mashable commented that from the numbers, Buzz is receiving about 160,000 posts per hour, which as they understandably note, is “staggering.” At the end they specify that they “have a long list of improvements on the way” and are working with tons of feedback to create something that users actually want. So from the sounds of it, they’re trying to stick to their motto, “Don’t be evil,” but I’ll believe it when they add Facebook connectivity to their list of third party sites. In what I thought would be an utter failure, it seems Google has made some positive strides and actually has some potential in the social media market.

Do you think Buzz can be successful in Facebook’s shadow or is the phenomenon only temporary? Have or will you use the new social media outlet? And if so, what features do you like or would you like to see added?


One Comment

  1. Insightful concept. I have briefly tested out Buzz and had experienced most of the above drawbacks. The lagging of third-party importing was rather devastating. In general, I feel it will be really difficult for Buzz to even slightly match up with Face book since it has so many followers already. People are trying to keep their lives simple as possible so they’re eliminating any excess accounts and social media they do not use, let alone add a new social networking site.

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