Google Buzz – weird email or weird Twitter?

It took Google Wave months to go through initial excitement, people trying to make sense of it and discouragement with half-baked product. Google Buzz managed to burn through same cycle in a week.

So what exactly Google tried to pull with new Buzz service and why it is neck deep in negative feedback?

What it is

Buzz is Gmail expansion that integrates it with multiply Google services, as well content from non-Google sites, to syndicate your content together and get content of your mail contacts syndicated to you.


It uses follow/followed model (common in social services) and Google email+chat contacts as initial pool.

What they got right

Buzz has started on the back of massive Gmail userbase and got excellent jumpstart from that. Some people treated it as bad thing to boast about, but really – if you have such resource it completely makes sense to use it. Starting from scratch in this case would be just dumb.

Some streams Buzz can integrate are common (Twitter, ahem), but it also can stream info from generic sites. As far as I can tell it doesn’t even use RSS – I had some older posts show in Buzz after edits. I assume it makes use of sitemap or just raw data from Google bots.

Comment system in Buzz is excellent:

  • it is easy to use;
  • messages with active discussion float to top;
  • between @-style addressing and Gmail notifications it is very easy to follow conversations.

Buzz integrates nicely (and basically requires) Google Profile:

  • Buzz stream shows on profile page;
  • sites, set up in profile, are used as possible sources in Buzz.

What they got wrong

Buzz got extreme amount of negative feedback over implied privacy issues. There were two main revelations:

  • people can have a lot of negative feelings towards those they exchange emails with;
  • after all these years people still have no grasp that what they make public online is PUBLIC.


Google tried to throw a lot of people into social experience, and most of them were not conditioned by previous usage of social experience. It backfired.

As for me Google got Buzz into the middle ground and it was wrong choice:

  • closer to Gmail and it would be just hip next-gen email experience;
  • farther from Gmail and it would be standalone service, hub to bring other Google services together.

Instead they hit being thing that is too raw to be solidly valuable and too weird for immediate mainstream appreciation.

Aside from panicked rounds of idiot-proofing privacy issues, it seems that Buzz might take second route and move farther from Gmail into distinct separate service. Will see how it goes.

As for my personal gripes – Buzz broadcasts stuff I already read elsewhere and forces itself on other services like Gmail and Google Reader in rather inconvenient ways. The things that allowed it to take that jumpstart also highlight that there is not much interesting about Buzz itself for now.


Buzz seems like Google’s experiment into new type of release cycle. Instead of squeezing product through limited number of techies it tried to leverage large mainstream userbase.

At this moment it is:

  • impossible to make educated guess of how important of experiment it was;
  • what results Google got and if they liked them;
  • if Buzz will get sufficient development to mature into solid product.

All interesting things to know, but I suspect Google is not likely to openly discuss.

My Google profile http://www.google.com/profiles/rarrst

Do you use Buzz? What is your take on it?

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  • kingpin #

    Can't you see Google is trying outdo Twitter and Facebook with their Wave and Buzz,but with privacy their biggest disregard,I say Thanks but no thanks.What about Yahoo's MEME?
  • Rarst #

    @kingpin Well, Wave is not social at all. It's communicational tool, not time-wasting. :) Buzz seems slightly like Twitter but content is backwards. Twitter is to post and syndicating is secondary (at least supposed to be). Buzz syndicates first and people post little (if at all). As for privacy - I don't see Buzz doing anything particularly evil. It was bit too eager to use contacts data, but it had informed about that from the start and changed behavior in few days to suggest only. Don't think I ever even heard about Meme. :)
  • Saurabh #

    I see that you have blurred out your labels in Gmail . :) I take it that if the contacts list was visible you would have blurred it as well. Whats the point if suddenly one day Google decides that your contacts page should be visible to the whole world via your profile page? They did rectify this but it should have been optional right from the start.
  • Rarst #

    @Saurabh I didn't blur labels because I consider those highly private. :) They are just boring stuff like "comments" and "posts". However this stuff is part of details Google asks for if there is need to verify account ownership. Not wise of a thing to show whole Internet. I don't remembering Google showing my contacts page to anyone. I do remember Google using small set of my most active contacts and explicitly telling me they are displayed on my profile page, as well as providing visible options to disable that. As I wrote - Google was too eager to use that info, sure. But total overreaction by people just shows a gap in their email usage and their real feelings towards their contacts. :) I cynically find it hilarious.
  • Saurabh #

    Well if you didn't opt out the first time the only place to remove the contact lists was hidden at the profile page, where I rarely visit. They corrected that later on and made it more prominent. (disclaimer: as far as I remember. :)) Most major web services ask for your gmail login info for your contacts and most people have little qualms in providing that. It is indeed hypocritical for them to be so concerned about privacy now. But not every user is like that. (at least thoretically.) The "small" set of of my active contacts that Google chose was all 22 of them. (yeah I would have loved to follow them which I did. ) Some people(e.g company professionals) could have had sensitive contacts and many people keep the same email id for work and for personal purposes. If you're trying to convince me that I'm overreacting and I'm hypocritical then perhaps you're right. :) But if you're trying to convince me that Google did not have a privacy issue, I won't agree with you.
  • Rarst #

    @Saurabh Sorry if it sounded aimed at you, I meant that some people really freaked out and were screaming first and looking at settings second (or never). Peak of stupidity was complaining about Buzz showing publicly (!) shared Google Reader items. This most certainly was a privacy issue. Google did screw up a bit. But many treated situation like Google has an huge obligation to babysit their privacy and think for them.
  • Saurabh #

    Let the arguments rest. On the other hand I believe that I would be using Google Buzz, especially when I get into college and get a life, where at least people would listen( thanks to auto-follow or auto suggest) rather than twitter which turns out to be rather disappointing for many people who like to believe that they are at the center of the revolving world. :)
  • Rarst #

    @Saurabh You can always start your own blog, instead trying to make sense of services someone packaged for you as they see fit. ;)
  • Saurabh #

    I would when I have more time. Till then I have a tumblog, saurabhk.tumblr.com. Its fate is yet undecided. :) (Warning: NO original content whatsoever) I am hoping that I get more time when I get into college.
  • Saurabh #

    Sorry for spamming your post but: here's an update on some privacy issues. http://www.downloadsquad.com/2010/02/21/facebook-acquires-contact-importing-company-octazen/
  • Rarst #

    @Saurabh Well, Google is not alone with bright idea that if people are lazy to make connections and glue themselves to services... they could be helped with that. :)
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  • The DataRat #

    . Sorry, but I'm completely and utterly without ~any~ idea of what Google Buzz could do for me. I also suspect the majority of Internet users feel the same way. Waaay too esoteric ! Maybe the bleeding-edge types can figure this one out, but I'm at a total loss. . The Computer Rodent .
  • Rarst #

    @DataRat It's more for people who enjoy staring at Twitter or Facebook all day long and tell it is meaningful to get important stuff that way. :) My problem is Buzz is no what it delivers, it is that it delivers things I read elsewhere anyway.