Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Thoughts on Google Buzz

by Eric Stewart on Feb.13, 2010, under Technology, The Internet

So the Twitterverse was abuzz the other day with news about … well, Buzz, a new application from Google that’s integrated into GMail.  Being a GMail user I went ahead and actually opened GMail to see what all the buzz was about.

This is actually something that doesn’t happen too often.  First, I do a majority of my GMail reading on my Palm Pre.  Granted, I don’t do much composing of lengthy emails on the Pre, but my GMail isn’t that heavily used.  Even GTalk is integrated into the Pre, and I don’t have a lot of folks that talk to me on it much (if at all).  Second, my primary web browser home page (of the three tabs Firefox is set to start on) is iGoogle, which I’ve customized to use the GMail Gadget (my other two home pages being Facebook and Google Reader).  So, this is a major barrier to me adopting Buzz: it’s not available to me outside of GMail.  There’s no iGoogle gadget for it yet (and there’s at least one decent gadget for Twitter), nor is there an app for the Palm Pre yet but apparently the “mobile” version of Buzz works fairly well on the Pre.

Next, even my friends who have GMail accounts don’t make as great of use of them as someone might.  They use other accounts (particularly their work accounts) for email, and very few use chat (perhaps when logged in to Facebook, but not much outside of that).  So for me, that’s the next barrier: even my GMail based friends are more likely to be using something else.

Now, as to what Buzz essentially is …

Well, it’s a lot like Facebook in it’s comment handling, in that you can comment on someone’s posts.  It’s like Twitter in its following methodology, in that the following doesn’t have to be mutual.  It doesn’t feel very polished, but that’s probably because Google would prefer it to be fairly simple – this makes it easier to get it to work in different browsers.  It has plug-ins to automatically pull posts from other sites, such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Google apps such as Reader and Picasa.  Facebook has similar functionality (for a larger range of sites, if you can find it).

But it’s not without flaws at this time:

  • The Twitter imports seem less than reliable.
  • It appears as if the order of posts are based not on the date of the posts in question, but the date of the most recent comment to the post, and it doesn’t appear as if you can change this behavior.  I’m following Leo Laporte and his posts are heavily commented on, keeping them at the top of my list, and the top post shows all comments, instead of hiding all but the most recent three or so.  This can make it hard to keep track of new posts from less commented on posters.
  • As I’ve mentioned, doesn’t have a polished feel to it, but then my experience with various Google apps is that they tend to sacrifice polish for functionality, release speed, and penetration ability.

So, if your circle is all GMail based, maybe you can ditch Twitter and Facebook.  Or at least Facebook, since Buzz easily imports Twitter tweets.  Thing is, as good as Google is at developing new functionality, it is going against two well established competitors, and I don’t see myself leaving either Twitter or Facebook for Buzz any time soon.

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