Thoughts on trying out Google Buzz
As I suspected, Google didn't suggest many other Buzz users at first, thanks to my using Gmail as an inbox for commercial messages. In comparison, my wife uses Gmail as her primary address and had Buzz recommend 26 other people to follow. (You can read my public Buzz updates at my Google profile.)
The default setting for Buzz, as Silicon Alley Insider warned yesterday, will publicize the people you follow and therefore suggest who you talk to most often on Gmail--a fine way for journalists to out their sources. I didn't like it when Facebook updated its default privacy settings to make status updates visible to everyone; I don't like Google's assumptions here either.
Writing, reading and commenting on buzzes seems straightforward enough, and in some ways simpler than Twitter. You don't have to chisel away letters to abide by an arbitrary character limit, and you can link to other sites directly instead of by creating a bit.ly shortcut.
But pulling in content from other, non-Google sources is difficult to set up, as former Business Week tech columnist Steve Wildstrom complained on his blog.
I've yet to make any real use of Buzz's mobile software, mainly because I've been confined to near my home for the past two days and don't want to advertise that location.
To get a little more context, I Twittered and Buzzed this query earlier today:
Pop quiz: Name one thing Google Buzz does better than Twitter or Facebook. (Bonus question: do you think Buzz makes either site redundant?)
Here are some of the replies I got:
"Two things: Buzz lets me edit typos out of posts, and Buzz sorts by most recent activity."
"better: NO FARMVILLE OR MAFIA WARS IN BUZZ worse: i can't block ppl? (I know i can just post private, but still)"
"lets you edit posts, has no character limit, displays media better, integrates seamlessly into Gmail"
"geo" (That is, geo-location)
It's safe to say that Buzz easily out-features Twitter. But that may be a problem: Twitter works well because it's so simple. You don't have to worry about fine-grained privacy settings or tending friends lists, because by default everything is public.
Buzz's greatest potential probably lies in Google's plans to open it up to other sites, software and services. Google software engineer Dewitt Clinton wrote a lengthy Buzz this morning about those goals:
The idea is that someday, any host on the web should be able to implement these open protocols and send messages back and forth in real time with users from any network, without any one company in the middle. The web contains the social graph, the protocols are standard web protocols, the messages can contain whatever crazy stuff people think to put in them. Google Buzz will be just another node (a very good node, I hope) among many peers.
For now, Buzz seems more like an evolutionary descendant of FriendFeed, a cross-social-network service that Facebook recently bought, and which I never saw the point in using -- it just seemed like more work to me.
If you want to try out Buzz, read Gina Trapani's cheat sheet on how to manage the service. Note also that you can opt out of the whole thing by clicking a "turn off buzz" link on your Gmail page.
How do you see Buzz fitting into your online life? Post your thoughts, and any review you have to share, in the comments.
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