Google Buzz: a serious new fixture in the social web?

Posted February 12, 2010 in social media  |  No Comments so far

Not everyone is all that impressed by Google Buzz so far, but I am. Yes, questions are being raised about privacy – but such questions are a given in any modern discussions about social technology. And some have been quick to point out limitations in terms of interface (“I quickly found the Buzz user interface… visually uninviting“) and features (“Google Buzz: The Missing Features“) – but imperfection is inevitable when a service is only two days old.

For what it’s worth, there are things about Buzz I’d like to change. Conversations shouldn’t be treated so much like emails, for example, with “read” and “unread” states – this brings “inbox anxiety” into the equation, something Twitter was wise to discard. And users could benefit from more fine-grained control over privacy settings.

Inbox anxiety with Buzz

Inbox anxiety with Google Buzz - I'm not looking forward to having hundreds of unread "Buzzes"

But I’m happy to put these thoughts to one side: at the moment I’m more interested in the response it’s provoked among my own contacts, many of whom are tech-savvy but not really social web junkies. So far, it’s making me think that Buzz has an appeal for people who are active online but always disliked Twitter and had never heard of Friendfeed.

Buzz has definitely been a conversation-starter in a way that Wave wasn’t. In the first few hours, many posts were as you’d expect – “what is this for?”, “can anyone see this post?”, that sort of thing. Today is day two for Buzz, however, and the conversations have started to move away from these meta topics. In fact they’re slowly starting to resemble the sorts of conversations these people have in real life.

This is very different from Wave, which prompted a few discussions of the “what’s this all about?” variety before being largely abandoned even by early adopter types like myself. Obviously this might happen with Buzz as well – as I said above, today is only day two – but the acceptance trajectory so far seems very different. For example, the risk of being flooded with too much Buzz data seems much greater than that of Buzz falling into disuse.

In many ways I’m tempted to think that Wave has been a kind of public beta for Buzz. MG Seigler at TechCrunch is thinking along similar lines in this post, If Google Wave Is The Future, Google Buzz Is The Present. Buzz certainly explains why Wave had no Gmail integration, something I wondered about at the time.

Once again, it’s early days with Buzz. But my own anecdotal experiences so far make me suspect that – despite the contrary opinions of various mavens and competitors – it’s going to be a fixture in the social media landscape for some time to come.

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