February saw Google launching its Buzz system – the Gmail-attached message and sharing tool. After a few months of steady use in a very unscientific manner (read: my friends and I trading pictures, links, jokes and discussions), here’s a list of what works and what doesn’t.
I know it’s still young and has faced some external battles over privacy and access, but Buzz is shaping up to be better than Google’s earlier Wave tool. I’m considering Buzz to be the Diet Coke of Wave: a similar batch of tools, but fewer calories and issues.
So let’s see how Buzz is doing in real-life use.
The bees’ knees
- Unlike Wave’s invite-only access, all you need is a Gmail account to use Buzz. Voila, a much larger user base.
- Accessed via a mobile device, you can view Google Maps with a new Buzz layer, so you can plot out Buzzers. For fun, move the map to Midtown New York City and watch the Buzzes fly. (Take THAT, rural Rankin County, Mississippi.)
- Supposedly there is a mechanism in place for Buzz to recommend interesting posts, but I’ve yet to notice one. Maybe I’m just not interesting enough, eh, Google? However, I rarely start a Buzz but will comment on others. Maybe the Buzzes you start are somewhat weighted?
- The integration into your Gmail inbox is a one-stop shopping experience, and is making me consider making Gmail my home page of sorts.
Oh, buzz off
- Personal information and privacy remain the largest issue. Some say how Google was attaching it to public profiles, it could let the public basically see your conversations with other users. Later on, Google stepped in and added permissions and the like to control access.
- If you didn’t create the Buzz, your replies can only be text and links. So if the Buzz starter posted a great pic, your follow-up image can’t be inline – you’ll have to post a URL instead.
- Email notifications had been a touchy issue. When Buzz came out, the default method was to send an email alert for each comment that was made in a Buzz you were a member. So if you were in a large and active thread, your Gmail account would be full. The original work-around was using a filter to hide or even delete the notices. But Google quickly stepped in and added new settings in Buzz to allow or disallow email notification. (Personally, I don’t mind the email notices and I’ve kept mine on.)
- Buzz can let you connect other sites and social media platforms to your Buzzes. Meaning, what I post on my blog, Flickr, Twitter, etc. can show up in my Buzzes. Great, you might think. But like me, you’re cross-pollinating: I have Twitter followers in Buzz, so I get a double dose of whatever they post. Unless your buddy disconnects their Twitter feed from Buzz, your only recourse is to ignore or unfollow.
So where does that leave us? Where are Google and Buzz going? Good question. Facebook and yes even MySpace have the same functions. Is it a trial run for Google for a Twitter Killer, but with a much more powerful advertising and revenue-generating model?