Google Buzz is barely out of the digital delivery room, so it may be a bit premature to start a meaningful review of the web’s newest baby. But I’ll do it anyway. Well, “meaningful” may be a bit of a stretch. How about “cursory” or “preliminary?”
In case you are an under-rock dweller, here are the basics: Google announced a new web application called Google Buzz, which integrates with Google’s Gmail service. There is also a Google Buzz mobile device application, which is accessible by pointing your mobile browser to www.buzz.google.com. Here are some shots of how it looks on the iPhone:
Buzz is being rolled out over time, so if you don’t have it yet, don’t panic. Be patient.
It’s impossible to resist a comparison to Twitter. But, Buzz is more than just a Twitter clone. It’s sort of a Frankenstein’s Monster of web applications: part Twitter, part instant messenger, part email, part discussion forum, part social media aggregator, part rich media delivery tool, and part location-based social network. Too much to cover here.
If you really want to understand it, your best bet is to watch this brief video:
You can also read this good article about it from the New York Times.
A few notes on the good and bad of Google Buzz…
- Google Buzz is integrated into it’s popular (176 million users strong) Gmail email service. This means more of a centralized hub for this new pastiche of communication. It also means that it won’t be ignored (like Google Wave? and Google Latitude?) because the Buzz link appears right under Gmail’s inbox link.
- Integration with Twitter. If you connect your Twitter account (also Picasa, Flickr, and Google Reader) with Buzz, your tweets flow to your Buzz stream. Double your pleasure.
- Integration with Google Reader. Increasingly, Reader is becoming the filter from which I find interesting content on the web. With Buzz, I can use the Reader “share” feature to send items right into my Buzz stream so others can enjoy the good content, as well. You can follow me on Google Reader here.
- Mobile access & LBSN features. Google’s first swing at Buzz for mobile is impressive. It shows a list view and a decent map view of nearby Tweets Buzzes (see pics above). This will help Google overcome their failed attempt at LBSN (i.e., location-based social networking (see Google Latitude). Lookout FourSquare?
- The @ factor. Like Twitter, you can direct a Buzz to a user by using the “at” symbol as a prefix to an email address. So, to send someone a Buzz, type @firstname.lastname@example.org in the Buzz box.
- Direct messaging? As noted, there is an @ function, but it is not readily apparent whether there is a direct (private) message shortcut function (the equivalent of using the “d” in Twitter). You can send a private message to “a small group of your closest friends,” (see the video) but doing so is just a tad cumbersome. Shortcut, please.
- Searching email also searches Buzz items. Gmail’s ability to quickly search your email items is one of it’s best features. As of this morning, search results included Buzz results. Not good. Google should be able to fix this (and there may already be a filter for it). But the default search should exclude Buzz results, or Google should simply include a button to select the content to search.
- Buzz to email. Some users have already complained of being inundated with email because Buzzes are going right into their inboxes (rather than into the separate Buzz location). This is designed to happen when someone comments on your Buzz or sends you an “@ message” – so that you don’t miss it. There should be an option to disable this feature.
- Speaking of comments… everything in moderation, please. This is not Twitter: people can comment on your Buzzes. Sounds great, unless you follow someone like Robert Scoble or Pete Cashmore (of Mashable), then it’s WAY too much information. A recent Buzz by Scoble elicited 100 “likes” and 145 comments. Scrolling down through all those comments to the next Buzz took a while. And I hate to say it, but a lot of those comments were meaningless blather. Buzz needs a “show/hide” comments link (default view to hide) to avoid this.
- Long posts: Again, this is not Twitter. There is no 140 character limit on what you can Buzz about. Scoble said he likes this, but I disagree. Twitter has gotten us used to short messages. 140 characters may be too short, but I don’t want to read War and Peace in someone’s Buzz post. Maybe there is a limit, but I couldn’t find it.
- A butterfly? (See the video) I get it, I get it: social butterfly. But shouldn’t Google have used a bee or a hornet as the mascot?
As a preemptive strike, I’ll just say that the Google Buzz integration with Gmail had better not mess up my Gmail contacts!!! There’s already enough frustration with that as it is.
That’s it – quick and dirty. If you’re using Google Buzz, then let’s connect. Find my Buzz information on my Google Profile. I’ve also created a LinkedIn Group called Google Buzz where people can discuss it (in a less buzzy, old-school discussion- forum-type of way), so join that too.
So, what are your thoughts about Google Buzz? Please comment below.
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