11Mar

Google Buzz logo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Google Buzz logo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last Tuesday, Google Buzz marked one month since its launch, and it has not been an easy one. From the word on the e-block, more users are bashing what was touted as the new uber-social online tool rather than buzzing about it. However, apparently against the odds, Google’s venture into real-time web networking does not look likely to buzz off soon.

Media140′s newest blogger, Petya Panduleva, takes a look at where things stand for Google Buzz, and where they may be going.

Petya worked for a communications agency in Washington DC before crossing the Atlantic to complete a Masters of Science in International Marketing at King’s College London. In her academic life, she has a passion for social media, and at home she loves to dabble in photography and food.

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On February 9, Google announced the creation of a new social networking platform on its blog. Buzz was ‘a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting,’ the blog said. That sounded good – everybody likes ‘interesting things’ – but almost immediately some noisy problems reared their heads.

First up, there were security concerns. The new addition to an already densely-populated social networking world seemed to have been unveiled all too hurriedly, and Google did not have all its bases covered.

Harriet Jacobs may have summed up the feelings of many with her vitriolic open letter, ‘F*ck You, Google’. Fears that the contents of their emails had gone public rattled large numbers of users.

Google responded speedily to the privacy worries – by adding a ‘Turn Buzz Off’ button, but it was in size eight font, all the way down at the bottom of the Gmail page. Was it too little too late? Perhaps.

Online technology super-hub Mashable polled its readers just a week after the launch of Buzz and found that 32 per cent ‘didn’t like it’, and a further 18 per cent were already ‘done with it’.

Whether Google Buzz will be to social networking what Gmail was to Web-based mail is dubious, in my opinion. People already have established networks on various platforms that serve different purposes. Clumping everything together will make online life overwhelming and busy.

Buzz is a noisy platform. It allows people to comment on posts and keep commenting, ad infinitum. In just a short time using Buzz, I have frequently encountered discussion threads that were so long they seemed capable of circling the globe.

Make the error of commenting on a popular post, and the panic-inspiring ‘Inbox (12930)’ may greet you on your next login. Then there is the question of people linking their Buzz feed to their Twitter feed and vice versa.

“I find there’s enough noise in the world and… I find there aren’t enough tools here to remove that noise. Tweets are mostly noise right now because most people who are using Buzz are also using Twitter. So even a good tweet is noise here because most people are seeing it twice,” said technical evangelist Robert ‘Scobleizer’ Scoble.

That may all appear to be a sure-fire indictment that Buzz will not replace Facebook and Twitter, but the statistical picture is surprisingly different. Another Mashable poll contradictorily found many users planned to use it alongside Facebook and Twitter.

That is probably because Buzz is not without its advantages. One of them is that lengthy and complex discussions can take place there without flooding the feeds of Twitter followers who are not involved. I can see Buzz’s potential as a sort of giant forum, but the question is how to reconcile its useful features with its terrifying consequences for one’s inbox.

Buzz might be a little late to the social networking party and Google clearly made a few mistakes launching it, but it is by no means dead yet. Mashable has even created a separate Buzz tab, which is significant given the site’s immense following (its Twitter feed alone has almost two million followers).

Buzz is here to stay, and Google’s habit of responding swiftly to consumer feedback gives it a good chance at improving greatly in a matter of weeks. Perhaps it will find its niche, just the way that Twitter dis. Perhaps we must simply bear with it.

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