Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Google Buzz

TechCrunch said, "If Google Wave Is The Future, Google Buzz Is The Present". And that means what exactly? Well I'll assume you've heard of Google Wave. You may not know exactly what Google Wave is or what it can do, but I'll presume you remember everyone going crazy about Wave towards the end of 2009. Well, Google Buzz is the new 'next big thing' from Google.

Before I throw too many words at you, check out Google's video explaining what Buzz is...

I have to agree with TechCrunch on this one. Consider Google. A huge global mega-corp with interests in virtually every part of the modern web, from video hosting (YouTube) to email (Gmail) to image hosting (Picasa) to software/OS (Chrome) to hardware (Nexus One). The big glaring gap in that list, however, is Social Networking. In the grand scheme of things, Google do not have a presence within the hierarchy of favourite Social Media Networking sites. So why not fix that?

And you know what, Google are going to try just that.

Google's latest venture, Google Buzz, is designed to bring together elements of Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, and Facebook together in one convenient location, accessible by either desktop or mobile. Google Buzz is described as the ultimate feed, a kind of FriendFeed on steroids. Through the "convenience" of your Gmail account, you will now be able to stream your status updates, pictures, links, and videos from your friends. In a similar fashion to Facebook you can then “like” them and comment on them. The service will also suck in feeds from Flickr, Picasa, Google Reader and Twitter. Beyond this, Google Buzz will then also offer the added functionality of making recommendations of feed items that you might like based on friends’ activity.

So if this is all about a "super feed", what's the big deal?

Well, Google want Buzz to be different in one fundamental way: Buzz is about Social Curation. As most of us are probably (painfully) aware, there is just too much content being created to be able to filter through to the stuff that is of real genuine interest. Buzz will do this. When importing content from something like Twitter (import only to begin but Google say the service will eventually allow you to fully manage services like Twitter directly from Buzz), Buzz will filter out content so that you only see the best bits. Admittedly this sounds very controlling and perhaps not of immense value to begin with but Google do promise that the service will be as open as possible.

So what are the downsides to all this?

Well as has been seen with Google Wave, just because something is from Google does it automatically mean it's got universal appeal. Google Wave is a phenomenally powerful tool but it's simply not of use to everyone, and there are plenty of people who will go their whole life without a need for it. Google Buzz is really facing the same problem. Can it be of use to everyone? Because that's really what it's about these days. Niche is just that, niche. And for a company like Google to spend the time and money in development and promotion, they need to have something that we all use/need.

When it comes down to it, for me, it's too early to draw any conclusions. Give me a month of using the service and I'll come back with an educated review.

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