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Buzzing About Google Buzz

GBuzz

The other shoe has dropped. Google has officially made a foray into the realm of social networks. (No, now is not a good time to bring up Wave, which Sergey insists is a success – yeah, whatever you say, Sergey.) On 9 February 2010, they unveiled Google Buzz – “a Google approach to sharing”. And apparently, the only solution for the problem of ‘oversharing’ of social expressions on the web. It is but the natural course of events, considering Google’s we-need-to-have-a-finger-in-every-pie attitude. And web domination is not (quite) web domination without a social networking tool.

Coming back to the topic at hand, what exactly is Buzz? From what I can see, it is a robust, not to mention ambitious, email application masquerading as a social networking platform, which also doubles as an aggregator – of status updates, images, videos and links – all in the name of social curation.

Now, how does it work? In a clever move that almost makes up for the mess that is Wave, Google has released Buzz directly into Gmail. So, the next time you log in to your account (this is when I interrupt myself  to say that only Gmail users get to use Buzz), you may just find yourself with a spanking new Google Buzz account. No need to sign up anew, no installation of any kind required. Just click on the Buzz tab beneath the Inbox tab and you can get Buzzing. As Google reports on their official Buzz page, they are still in the process of rolling out this service, and it may take a couple of more days before it is active in all Gmail accounts.

Buzz

When Buzz is active in your account, you’ll be taken to such a page when you log in.

Buzz Tab

The Buzz tab, as you can see, appears right beneath the Inbox tab. You can’t miss it.

Buzz profile

An active Buzz user profile appears like this.

Buzz post box

This is what a typical Buzz post box (box where you post, get it?) looks like. Like said, you have the option of posting Publicly or privately, you can click on the drop down arrow next to Public to choose the Private option.

Friend buzz profile

Buzz profile of a friend will look like this.

buzz in inbox

This is the screenshot of a Buzz in the inbox – the interface is exactly the same.

According to Google, Buzz has five key features that make it different from the other leading social networking platforms.

1. Auto Following – With Buzz, you can say goodbye to the hassle of setting up a network from scratch, Gmail already ‘knows’ who your friends are and will follow them automatically. (Years of indexing experience must have come handy, but the feature doesn’t exactly scream cutting edge)

2. Rich, Fast Sharing Experience – Buzz allows you to share photos, videos, links to websites, basically, content from around the web with your network. It has a custom photo viewer that will allow you to view pictures ‘the way they are meant to be viewed’. (This is pretty neat, I admit)

3. Public And Private Sharing Options – Buzz has two sharing options. You can either share Publicly, which would mean your Google Profile will be automatically updated, which, as Google go on to explain, means, it will be indexed real-time and made available to anyone and everyone searching for it on the web. Or you can share Privately with your friends. Wow, Google, those are some groundbreaking options there!

4. Inbox Integration – Google Buzz notifications aren’t just static emails, they posses the same properties of Buzz, which means a Buzz notification mail looks exactly like an actual Buzz, and allows you to respond to it right from the inbox – you can view pictures, like or dislike comment and even have comments updated in real-time. Yes, certainly cool, but I think, totally unnecessary. The Buzz tab is right there in your account, in fact, just beneath the Inbox tab. How long does it take to switch to the other tab, really now?

5. Just The Good Stuff – Google is not a search giant for nothing, they will use nothing less than an algorithm to rank the streams on Buzz. (That’s right, and soon SEOs all over the world will be working at optimizing Buzzes to rank high on Buzz streams, and a whole new power game will ensue.) So, this algo will ensure that you get ‘just the good stuff’ by ‘recommending’ good buzz, ‘collapsing’ bad buzz. Meddlesome much?

So, if we are to believe Google, Buzz is the social media messiah, come to save social media and the ‘signals’ from a preponderance of ‘noise’. Just like Google search swooped in and saved the day with its relevant results. Don’t believe me? Check out the launch video.

Pretty ironic when you consider that Google essentially is a social media upstart. With Buzz, they presume to resolve the ‘relevancy and ranking problem’ that is plaguing the social realm. Buzz apparently, with its ‘open’ source platform, will save the social realm and champion the cause of social information, both of which are really at threat from the ‘closed’ social communities that are so popular now.

At this point, I can’t muster up much enthusiasm for Buzz, Wave-likeness aside, as a social networking tool, it has very few original aspects. ‘Followers’ and ‘@reply’ are features it has generously borrowed from Twitter, with nary a nod in its direction, and don’t even let me start on the endless similarities to Friendfeed. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, Buzz has distanced itself from any association with Facebook. The ubiquitous Facebook Connect is missing and none of its features make an appearance either. This could be because Goggle sees Facebook as the only true competition to Buzz. But with over 400 million users in its kitty, as opposed to the 179 million subscribers Gmail has cornered, Facebook has nothing to worry about.

Back to the matter of whether Google Buzz will be able to keep buzzing, we just have to wait and watch how great the algorithm is at keeping the ‘noise’ out.

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February 11th, 2010 by bhavya

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