Thursday, February 11, 2010

Google Buzz

When I signed into my gmail account today, I was informed that Google has just launched their latest service, Google Buzz, and that I was now using it. At first, I was confused, not only because I couldn't remember signing up for Google Buzz, but also due to the recent launch of the similarly themed Google Wave. More on that later.
Google has so far remained detached from the social networking sphere of the internet, and has thereby missed out on one of the most significant aspects of our modern culture.; Buzz is obviously their attempt at breaking into this market.  Admittedly, their approach is slightly different, combining activity from other online sharing sites in one place, but in my opinion, that will just cause more confusion and disorder. Despite the awe-inspiring think-tank housed in the Googleplex, I don't think Buzz will work.
Although Google has imposed Buzz on all its gmail users, gaining an instant captive audience of millions, I feel that simply this lack of choice and the sudden unannounced implementation will turn many away before they even give it a try.
Anyone who already has a facebook or twitter most probably does not use their email (if it is even a gmail account for that matter) to communicate socially with the majority of the people in their lives. Their gmail contact list will therefore contain mainly non-social contacts, people in whose lives you do not wish to be intimately connected in real time. Buzz claims that it will automatically suggest those people with whom you communicate most often, a list that is also displayed on your profile. As far as I know, the unsolicited public sharing of private information such as that is a breach of privacy. Google has crossed the line between social interaction and over-connectedness and over-sharing - even by modern standards.
Buzz does allow you to combine your Twitter, Flickr and Picasa  activity in your feed, but not Facebook - I don't quite know why. For once, Google's clinical and minimal feel falls short. While Facebook is hardly overcrowded or colourful, its design is centred on facebooking and social interaction. In the same way that video-calling on Windows Live messenger could never compete with Skype's call-centric design, and yet Skype's instant messaging pales in comparison to messenger, Google Buzz will forever be tied to the functionality of gmail, a means to an end - quick communication.

Perhaps Google will be able to perform more of their magic and somehow make Buzz indispensable and commonplace, but I somehow doubt it. Barring some bizarre failure of facebook, it will reign unchallenged, even by the likes of Google.

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