Google’s recent release of Buzz has been surrounded by hype and questions. Only a couple days after its release, it remains to be seen if this new social networking tool will actually take off. Could it really become one of the social networking elite, or fall flat like Wave?
What is Buzz all about?
Currently, it shares a spot somewhere between Twitter and Facebook. It can be open to the public like Twitter, or updates can be private like Facebook. The API is open to developers in the same way Twitter is, but access is limited to those who own a Google account (similar to Facebook). You can send out short text updates to your followers, but it also has built-in media sharing capabilities such as: Twitter, Flickr, Blogger, Google Reader, Picasa, and YouTube. It only takes one click to tie in each service, as most of those services already belong to Google. You can have Buzz send out an update whenever you post to any of these services, or you can choose not to share. And just like Twitter and Facebook, Buzz is available on your phone to share from anywhere you happen to be.
Benefits and disadvantages
What does Buzz have going for it? Well, Google is already well-established, and that means anyone with a Google account automatically has access to it. However, most users who would take advantage of this service already use one or both of the other social networking service giants. It is forcing some to consider a change. They might be completely familiar with Facebook and/or Twitter, which have become the established social media applications in the last couple years. Plus, learning a new tool when your current one works great is kind of a hassle. Still, with all of the automatic, already-familiar application tie-ins, it makes Buzz an app to seriously appraise for daily use. It is combining social with an already well-established rich media content aggregation service.
Hey, remember Google Wave?
Will Buzz end up in a pile of Google attemps at getting web users to modify their everyday application arsenal? Again, that remains to be seen. Google Wave fell far short of the goal to “replace email”. The application was perhaps too innovative, and most people were not ready to let go of their old friend, traditional email. It is/was a great idea, but was viewed as being far too complex and scary to really be useful on a day-to-day basis. Also, the release was extremely limited. Most users I spoke with had the same experience I did with Wave. They got inside, poked around and tested a few things, and then said, “Uh… now what?”. It was difficult to use, since you really needed to identify a task for it. The concept makes sense in a published usage example when it was released, but had no easily-discernable day-to-day use outside of that kind of model. I ended up trying to think up ideas for Wave to handle. I needed something which several people needed to coordinate upon, and in which email would not perform as efficiently. I had a camping trip a few weeks away, so I started a “weekend camping trip” wave. The participants were able to debate the locations, the dates, etc. We posted photos of the campsite, shared Google Maps location, times we were leaving (for carpool coordination), and other thoughts. This all worked fairly well, but only 3-out-of-7 campers were part of Wave. Overall? FAIL.
If you’re ready to give Buzz a shot, get yourself a Google account. It is free, and shows up inside Gmail. Of course, it can be accessed from an iGoogle widget or from a mobile app as well, if you’re really not in to using Gmail.