The Birds and the Bees: Thoughts on Google Buzz

Like Apple’s announcement of the iPad before it, Google Buzz has been generating a lot of… buzz… in the tech community.  Ironically, I’ve received most of this “buzz" via tweets in my Twitter feed.   Most of my contacts that have adopted Buzz are either feeding in existing content from other sources (Google Reader, Twitter, etc.) or posting Buzz updates about the Buzz service itself rather than generating unique content.  As such, I have found little use for Buzz in its current form. Buzz’s implementation is satisfactory and there are a number of great features. I’m not interested in delving into too many of the design choices Google made here, as other blogs have great insight and discussion on some of the feature choices.   Google’s choice to include Buzz in GMail, their decision to auto-follow GMail contacts rather than prompt before following, and their decision to make the service opt-out rather than opt-in have all proven controversial. Many of these decisions seem to be strategic in nature and therefore understandable from Google’s perspective, but they mark an interesting attitude that seems to be increasingly prevalent and at odds with much of the internet community: that the company creating the product often knows better than its users.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the long term. Strategic decisions aside, the Buzz product itself still confuses me. Twitter serves its purpose as a way for me to interact with the larger internet community.   Facebook allows me to connect with the network of those that I know.   These distinct social graphs seem suited for different services, hence my need for both.   Buzz seems to occupy a strange space in the middle (similar to FriendFeed) and hasn’t developed enough identity yet to push me toward using it regularly.  While I really like the idea of pushing more relevant results to the top of the feed, the lack of any distinct sorting or timeline (like Twitter) makes it confusing to read updates.  I’ve found myself re-reading posts multiple times just because someone I don’t know has commented on them and pushed the post back to the top of my list. Muting these conversations is an option, but manually managing all of this is much less elegant that a solution that just works.  Part of the beauty of products like Twitter and Facebook (in its earlier stages) is that they accomplish their objective very well even if they don’t do much else.  Buzz doesn’t really do anything well but does a lot of things decently, and as a result it strikes me as a product that is more derivative and less innovative.  This will please some, but it hasn’t captured me yet. So, what will the future hold? If knowledge of natural selection and reproduction tells us anything, the bird (Twitter) and the bee (Buzz) will produce some sort of evolutionary superior organism.  Whether it is ultimately a success or a failure, Google’s entry into the social market should at the very least inspire other big players like Facebook, Twitter, and others to continue rolling out new and innovative features.  That’s a good thing for everybody. Reader(s), what are your thoughts on Buzz?  I’d love to get some discussion going in the comments below.