Satisfying Saturday: The Buzz on Google Buzz

February 13, 2010
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If you logged into your GMail account this week, you probably know about Google Buzz by now and may have clicked the button to install it. If you don’t have a GMail account (or if you do) and are confused what the buzz is on Google Buzz, keep reading…

Think back to your first Google Mail experience. If you were an early adopter of the web mail program, then a friend sent you a beta invitation between April 2004 and February 2007, the latter month being when GMail launched to the general public. In the early years, the GMail interface was just email: you could send and receive messages, and tag them with color-coded labels. Soon, an instant messaging application was added to the interface to enable you to textually chat with your email contacts in real-time. Later, a video chat was installed.

These three applications — email, chat, and video chat — were collectively part of the GMail experience. You visited gmail.com, inputted your username and password, and voila.

Buzz is the name of a different sort of chatting application, more geared toward sharing. The limitation of Google Chat is

If you logged into your GMail account this week, you probably know about Google Buzz by now and may have clicked the button to install it. If you don’t have a GMail account (or if you do) and are confused what the buzz is on Google Buzz, keep reading…

Think back to your first Google Mail experience. If you were an early adopter of the web mail program, then a friend sent you a beta invitation between April 2004 and February 2007, the latter month being when GMail launched to the general public. In the early years, the GMail interface was just email: you could send and receive messages, and tag them with color-coded labels. Soon, an instant messaging application was added to the interface to enable you to textually chat with your email contacts in real-time. Later, a video chat was installed.

These three applications — email, chat, and video chat — were collectively part of the GMail experience. You visited gmail.com, inputted your username and password, and voila.

Buzz is the name of a different sort of chatting application, more geared toward sharing. The limitation of Google Chat is you can only send messages back and forth to one person at a time. You are also restricted from sending photos, videos, and other online data to your friends. Moreover, what if you want to “chat” with all of your contacts at the same time? Imagine writing something to nobody in particular but having everyone add a comment in response. Or, what if you shared an update about Bill and one of his contacts, who is not your contact, responded?

Picture of women sitting together and looking at photos

If you want to share pictures from Picasa or Flickr, videos from Youtube, or other content from Google Reader or Twitter, you can do it in Buzz. And, if you grant the application permission (which you can choose to deny if your updates are private), your messages are indexed in real-time in the Google search engine.

Launched on February 9, 2010, Google elaborates on its blog:

Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting. It’s built right into Gmail, so you don’t have to peck out an entirely new set of friends from scratch — it just works. If you think about it, there’s always been a big social network underlying Gmail. Buzz brings this network to the surface by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with the most. We focused on building an easy-to-use sharing experience that richly integrates photos, videos and links, and makes it easy to share publicly or privately (so you don’t have to use different tools to share with different audiences). Plus, Buzz integrates tightly with your existing Gmail inbox, so you’re sure to see the stuff that matters most as it happens in real time.

Detail and an enriching user experience are key elements to Buzz, writes Louis Gray:

Photos shared in Buzz are very high quality and can be viewed quickly. YouTube video shares play in line, and interestingly, links that are shared as status updates give the option to share any images from the page…. thanks to Buzz being partnered with Gmail, the e-mail in box is hardly the second cousin to the social experience, as it is with many other networks. Rather than simply being a repository for follower notifications and daily summaries, Buzz messages in your in box are live conversations, which are updated in real time with comments from friends as they flow in.

Buzz will not replace Twitter or Facebook anytime soon, opines Robert Scoble, adding that Facebook has a larger team of international developers and Google is not trusted as a social service. For instance, it is nonsensical to force users to filter Buzz messages from appearing in (and overwhelming) their inboxes. Why can’t a user be asked to opt-in to such invasive measures, especially if one is following many Buzzers?

Shea Bennett offers 10 reasons why Google Buzz need to improve its internal workings and privacy settings, not the least is the primal nature of Buzz being only available to GMail users.

This is also the first time I’ve noticed how few of my friends actually use Gmail. I love Gmail, and recommend it to everybody, but people are often quite set in their ways, and prefer to stay with Hotmail or Yahoo, irrespective of the lack of features. Looking at my address book, I’m guessing probably less than 20% of my friends have a Gmail address, or even a Google account, for that matter. Yeah, it’s mad, but it also means Buzz is already limiting my network.

When you consider that more people use Yahoo and Hotmail than GMail (in the United States), I wonder to what extent Buzz will be a game changer. On the flipside, I recognize that most of my Twitter friends have GMail accounts; most of my Facebook friends do not. Clearly, this is aligned with the stigma of an early adopter.

In researching links to write this Saturday wrap-up, I discovered many people’s views and stumbled across many new blogs. I like what Shannon Turlington says the best, for she encapsulates the feelings I have and those which few are writing about, namely that Buzz should not be viewed as a competitor to other social services. She weighs in:

I like that Buzz lets me communicate very easily with people I email a lot, particularly friends and family. It’s great for quick, asynchronous chat sessions that I would normally carry on over email. I like to see what my friends are reading on the web and quickly comment on them. I would close my Facebook account today and only use Buzz if there weren’t so many people on Facebook who I want to stay in touch with and who seem unlikely to move…

Buzz is not a competitor with Twitter, though. It does not even try to do the things that Twitter does well. I use Twitter to find news, links and trends. It’s basically my window on the social web. I like it because I can drop in when I have time and ignore it when I don’t. I would never try to follow high-volume posters like Mashable or the New York Times on Buzz. That would quickly get overwhelming.

Also, my audience on Twitter is very different. It is larger and made up mostly of people who don’t know me, who I assume are more interested in specific topics I frequently write about and post links on. So I will continue to use Buzz and Twitter as complementary networks, rather than try to replace one with the other.

One more thing, before I ask you to scroll back up and click on those links you glossed over to date. Google Buzz is not merely part of the GMail experience but is tied into the Google Profile.

Ari Herzog - Google Profile

Here’s a link to my profile — and here’s a link to your profile.

If you’ve ever signed up for a Google service, you probably have a profile even if you don’t think you do. If you see it there, I urge you to consider to edit the content as a means to enhance your profile to complement your brand and identity. Whether you choose to add Buzz to your profile (which will happen if you add it to your GMail experience) is up to you, but the profile might need to be cleaned up anyway.


Thank you for reading Satisfying Saturday: The Buzz on Google Buzz at AriWriter

Related posts:

  1. How to Clean Up Your GMail Contacts
  2. GMail Suffers 2nd Outage in a Month
  3. Why I Don’t Hate Facebook Anymore


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