The Buzz on Buzz

The web was all atwitter (pun intended, and regretted) yesterday after Google announced their Buzz platform, which integrates geo-located status updates and link / media sharing into Gmail. I've played around with it a little bit, and thought I'd add my little voice to the echo chamber with a list of pros and cons. Interestingly, a lot of the pros are also cons, as you'll see below: Pros

  • Integrated into Gmail - Unlike Wave, you automatically start following the people you "email and chat with the most." Additionally, comments to your buzzes show up right in your Gmail inbox.
  • Granular privacy settings -  Not only can you choose to share your "buzzes" publicly or privately, but if choosing to share privately you can even specify which group/s to share with, given the ones set up in your contacts; this is hugely important for the next feature:
  • Geotagged buzzes - with the mobile app, you can "snap" a buzz to a location, which sort of places it somewhere between Twitter's geotagged tweets and Foursquare's check-in model; you can also view nearby buzzes as well as a "buzzes" map layer in Google maps; and snapped buzzes will also appear on a "Place Page" for that location, if it exists.
  • Rich media - shared photos appear as slideshows
  • Integration with other sites like Twitter, Google Reader, Flickr and Picasa
  • Realtime updates - don't have to hit refresh in the browser to see new buzzes come in
  • Comments & Likes - this is something sorely needed in Twitter and is one of the only areas in which Facebook's status update implementation beats Twitter's

Cons

  • Gmail integration - I actually don't use Gmail. I have a Gmail address but it just forwards to another email address I have hosted on my own server. I may use buzz via the mobile app, but I don't have much reason to go to Gmail and use it, and I suspect neither do the millions of other people not on Gmail. Also, just because I email with someone doesn't mean I want to follow their buzzes, or have them follow mine. I think the assumption is wrong that the people you email with are the same people you want to relate with on a social media site.
  • Yet another social network - Microsoft's quick response to Buzz's launch was one of defensive antagonism, but they actually made a good point: "Busy people don’t want another social network, what they want is the convenience of aggregation."Granted it seems like you can pull your Twitter feed and other feeds into Buzz, but until you can post your buzzes to Twitter, Facebook, etc., I think people will be slow to adopt yet another tool like this.
  • Too Little Too Late - with Twitter and Facebook so thoroughly entrenched, is Buzz compelling enough to pull users away from those services? I don't think so, not in its current state. To be sure there are numerous examples of meteoric rises and falls with social networks (Friendster, anyone?), and who's to say that won't happen with Twitter or Facebook, but I think in order for people to switch at this point, the new service, whatever it is, will have to be a revolution rather than an evolution.

So there you have it. I guess I'm being one of those infamous fence-sitters, but how could there not be two sides to the story for any new piece of technology?

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