Google Buzz is the talk of tech town today. It'd be nice to say that it's been met with a healthy mix of praise and cynicism but that simply isn't true. The fact is that until anyone really has a good play with it it's going to be hard to figure out quite what space it's going to occupy and whether or not we'll use it.
So, rather than rely on the opinions of social media experts - many of whom have a vested interest on Google's latest venture being a failure and even some who're either tainted by their experience of Wave or have simply developed a distaste for this all-consuming brand - here's a look at a few reasons why you might choose Buzz over Facebook, Twitter or other social platforms and a few where you might not.
5 where it's hot
1) Buzz is a great aggregator
Probably the biggest selling point of Google's service is that it pulls everything into one place for you. If Wave is the communications aggregator, then Buzz is the same for the social world and the beauty for Gmail users is that it's just strapped straight onto their e-mail service. So, no more logging into all your different networks.
As it stands, Buzz brings in Twitter, Picasa and Flickr, which is a good start, but, as yet, it's not the world. To really fulfil this role, it'd have to either sign up Facebook too or provide such a good service that it itself becomes the de facto standard. Right now, neither seems that likely but the potential of Buzz is there.
2) It's better with content
Buzz doesn't just offer you links like Twitter or static icons like Facebook, it actually pulls in the information from the URL itself. What's more, according to the demo video, it does it very fast too and without having to navigate away from the page you're on. That saves quite a bit of click work although it'll be interesting to see how it deals with spam links. Will it automatically embed the nonsense at the other end of a rogue URL or, like the rest of Gmail, will it have one of the best filters in the business?
3) You can update by voice
This is a very nice touch that's soon to be added to the service. You'll be able to update your Buzz page by voice. Naturally, this is only going to work from voice recognition-enabled phones to begin with and probably just those with Android 2.0 or over. Either way, it's certainly one level up from waiting 'till you've got your hands free before tweeting or Facebooking what's on your mind. This could lead to some kind of painful world where everyone comments live on their own life while it happens but, fingers crossed, social grace should kick in at some point.
4) It's location based
Yes, services like Foursquare already do this but the point is that Buzz will offer all your other aggregated bits and pieces as well, cementing it again as more of a one stop shop. Naturally, you can tag locations and GPS co-ordinates on other social services but there looks to be more of a focus here on a Google Latitude style map integration of where your friends are live and in the moment. How much people want that kind of thing, we could essay about but that's one for another time.
5) It cuts out the noise
Twitter is all about the noise and perhaps that's even part of its charm, but it's also one of the reasons a large group of people are still turned off the microblogging network. You barely have to get into a discussion with a non-user before hearing the magic words "Why do I want to know what people are up to every minute of the day and why would I want to tell everyone else what I'm doing?".
As we said before, Google has been particularly good with its filtering of spam in Gmail and that makes a solid foundation for the company being able to do the same with status updates that you don't want to hear - in theory anyway. If Buzz can effectively manage this, then it'll have a quick look advantage over Twitter and Facebook, the latter of which goes about cutting down the noise based on your relationships with your contacts rather than the contents of their messages. As a result, Buzz could potentially tune you into an interesting comment from someone you hardly know, whereas in the Facebook system, it would pass you by.
5 when it's not
1) You have to be on Gmail
As it stands, there's no point in using Buzz unless you happen to be on Gmail already. There's very little that you can do with Buzz alone that no other service will provide, so it's quite an ask to get people to sign up for an e-mail package they don't need just to use a social network they don't need either.
Granted, there's a lot of people out there on Gmail, but it's simply not ubiquitous in the way that Facebook has already become and it never will be. Too many people are already far too satisfied with their current e-mail platforms. These individuals would never choose Buzz above the others.
2) You can't update Twitter from it
Fantastic, you can pull in all your relevant Twitter talks but you can't actually use Buzz to tweet your own mind and that rather puts a dampener on it. There's going to be a good portion of the time that you'll want to react to what people have said and that's going to mean logging into Buzz and then logging into Twitter, which doesn't make things simpler but effectively doubles the time you take being social. How long before that one gets old and you cut out Buzz altogether?
3) No good for connecting to your friends
As Mark Zuckerberg and many others have pointed out already, it's all very well and good that Buzz will auto-friend all the people from your contacts book but those that you e-mail don't necessarily correspond to those with which you would like most social contact.
Are we going to end up connected to our contact lens sales company and our other online stores and services? Well, in actual fact, probably not. Google simply isn't that stupid but what you might find is that there's a few more work contacts in your Buzz social circle than might be wanted and that's en excellent reason to to use Facebook instead.
4) Social networking is about the noise
The question is, how much do we trust that Google Buzz noise filter? Yes, Google has done a great job filtering spam on Gmail but there are plenty of markers to look out for with unwanted messages. The same isn't true for uninteresting status updates. So, if we're not sure what we might be missing out on by checking Buzz instead of Twitter or Facebook, then people will probably end up checking all the networks just in case. It only takes a missed invitation to start not trusting the way Buzz does things.
From first impressions, Buzz doesn't look like the easiest service to get the hang of. With Twitter, you either share something or you don't. It's an all or nothing kind of world. Buzz has different levels of privacy such that your status updates can be seen by your whole network or just selected members.
It's definitely a good idea, but with greater flexibility comes greater confusion. Sharing what or who you got up to last night is just the kind of thing you want to be careful about announcing. You could say that Buzz is not what you want to be using when drunk, but perhaps it's just not the best choice for those less social network savvy as others.
The thing is that it's easy to sit here and talk about why anyone would bother using Google Buzz and what's the point in it as many people have so far. It may be that it's here to compete with Facebook, Twitter and the like, but why does it have to at all? This is not some start up by which Google will live or die. It's a service. In fact, it's really just a very fancy add-on to a service and that service you can either look at as Gmail or Google as a whole.
Buzz gets more people to stick around on Gmail and might even get a few people to sign up to the platform as well. What it also does, of course, is to add yet another string to the internet mega-giant's bow. Either way, it serves a strategic purpose.
Beyond that, it may not have any interest at being any kind of social network in its own right, just a quick window into one's social world. Whatever the case, don't expect it to disappear any time soon and, as often with Google's products, it's the refinements that will make it into something deeper and more diverse. Google maps was just a set of roads not so long ago. So, it's worth having a play with Buzz now and watching as the big G adds more layers.
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