Google's announcement of Google Buzz appears to have been met with a considerably larger wave of cynicism than usual from the web community. While some people sounded a note of cautious optimism, it seems like many have immediately put the boot in to Buzz rather quickly after its release.
Digg founder Kevin Rose quickly posted a list of changes he wanted to see, along with: "Not sure where Buzz fits in my arsenal of social media tools, how often I’ll use it, or if it will eventually feel too much like unread email". Jesse Hempel at Fortune added: "It’s unclear whether Gmail’s users are asking for new social functions for their email. Aren’t we all already swimming under copious amounts of status updates and shared media coming from services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Foursquare, etc.?"
Twitter was heaving with people asking what on earth this new thing was in their inbox - is it something to do with Google Wave? As a result, productivity blog Lifehacker posted a guide to removing Buzz updates from your Gmail inbox entirely.
Some had already been given a preview. Entrepreneur Robert Scoble, before launch, wrote six reasons "Why Google won’t give Twitter or Facebook a buzz cut". Meanwhile, Arrington at Techcrunch, having perhaps also had a preview of the service, posted a suspiciously prescient rant about how spammy social is, and how someone needs to clear it up, saying: "Someone will eventually help us make sense of all these various types of services, and help us separate the noise and spam from the real signal".
Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook gave it a kicking, too, each in their own inimitable way. Microsoft said: "Busy people don’t want another social network, what they want is the convenience of aggregation. We’ve done that. Hotmail customers have benefited from Microsoft working with Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and 75 other partners since 2008".
Yahoo reminded its customers that it has a product called Buzz of its own, and that Yahoo Updates has been doing what Google Buzz does for almost a year and a half, adding that more than 200 sites feed into the Yahoo Updates product, which appears throughout the Yahoo network, including in Yahoo Mail.
Facebook damned the service with faint (and generic) praise, saying: "We're supportive of technologies that help make the web more social and the world more open", but adding that "The continued growth of the social web will be determined by people and personal relationships. The people that you email and chat with the most may not be your closest friends or the people that you want to share and connect with".
It's clear why people are viewing the latest Google product with a degree of scepticism. For every mind-blowingly-excellent Google product (Gmail, Adsense, Google Earth), there's plenty of lame ducks (Google Lively, Jaiku, Google Video). The announcement of Google Wave, and subsequent bafflement about what it actually does, is still fresh in people's memories. Most people's Wave accounts now sit dormant, waiting for a reason to use it.
It seems like Google has learnt some lessons from the Wave announcement - the service will be coming to the world (almost) immediately, rather than people being forced to clamour for an invite for months. However, it's still not live for some people (ourselves included) and works on only a small subsection of mobile handsets.
Even Google's Android phones don't all work with the mobile version. Anything running Android 2.0 or above is fine, but those still stuck with 1.5 or 1.6 just get forwarded to the support site page for handset compatibility instead. Frustrating, as they've invested in the Google ecosystem by opting for an Android phone.
Google Apps users don't have access yet either, but it should show up in time. Google says that it plans to make Buzz available to people who are using the Apps platform shortly, with a bunch of bonus features that enable sharing within organizations.
Google Buzz is an attempt to organise social information, make it accessible and make it easily sortable, shareable and searchable. It wants to make that experience mobile. Assuming that the company can fix its teething problems with device limitations, we don't see any reason why Google isn't best-placed to make that happen in a way that's both useful and elegant. Perhaps much of the uproar we're hearing is recognition of that very fact.