Google Buzz Gmail Fails Against Facebook & Twitter
Google’s recent attempt to crack the social networking market comes courtesy of an ill-conceived service titled Google Buzz. The idea is that that Buzz provides similar status updates, and shared links, and so on, right inside of your Google email account. Of course, it is this very concept that dooms Google Buzz to failure, and casts a wide shadows of doubt upon the company’s once legendary ability to understand what users want and deliver useful innovation to the web.
Google Buzz Flaw
The primary flaw with Google Buzz is, ironically, the feature that the company is most proud of, it’s tight integration with Google Mail.
The privacy advocates have thrown up a hundred red flags as Google rolled out Buzz, and the company seemed a bit unprepared for the backlash. More tellingly, it seemed to be completely caught off guard by the problems that were pointed out, as evidenced by the numerous changes it made to the platform just days after it was unveiled.
The only explanation is that Buzz was built by Google, inside of Google, by Googlers, who are advanced and dedicated users of all things Google. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except for when that it means that "within Google" is no longer in sync with the world outside of Google. Of course, a ten-year Google employee has no problem linking together all of his Google services. He’s probably been doing it through other means for years. Likewise, he is only too happy to have another way for friends, family, and co-workers to find all of this stuff that he put out there on the Internet for all to see.
However, out here, in the 99.99999999% of the world that is not inside of Google headquarters, we have lives that are not universally linked. Most people have families, friends, co-workers, co-workers who are friends, colleagues who are acquaintances, but not necessarily friends, bosses, ex-girlfriends, and ex-boyfriends, and ex-wives and ex-husbands. Some of us have kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. Likewise, some of us have parents, grandparents, and maybe even great-grandparents. For each of these groups of people, there are undoubtedly sub-groups, ranging from conservative to liberal, political to non-political, religious and not, those who enjoy British humor and those who think it is stupid, and on, and on, and on.
The point of all this is that in our lives we are not interested in blending all of these layers together. The Wednesday drinking buddy would laugh hilariously as the cartoon we found, while the dad from our kid’s play dates would be horribly offended. Surely, this is the point of lists and groups, but there is more.
Email vs. Social Networking or Gmail vs. Facebook
Which brings us to the fundamental misunderstanding that makes Buzz a non-starter. Who we email, and who we tweet, update, and share with, are not the same.
The super-techie types and the super-marketing types may insist that the power of social networking websites like Facebook and services like Twitter comes from being able to interact with your whole network all of the time. However, the vast majority of those of us who make up Facebook’s 400 million users are neither.
We only link to certain friends and contacts. We shudder when our Great Aunt Matilda sends us a friend request. We don’t want our contact list to be our friends list.
In other words, while my Google Address Book bursts at the seems with people I met at a conference two years ago, and who from time to time, I do send emails too, I am not interested in those people seeing pictures of my kids, my new barbeque, or where my tickets are for Buffs home games. Frankly, I’m not interested in hearing about those things from them either.
If Google wants to play in this space, they have to acknowledge what everyone else has already figured out. The web is not all just one big thing. That’s why social networking is often called Web 2.0. It is different than the "regular" Internet of websites, searches, and emails, and we like it that why.
Incidentally, if it is any consolation to the search engine king, this same concept is why, for all of its attempts and numerous re-designs, Facebook search and Facebook email is doomed to failure for anything outside of the Facebook environment. While I might love to hear what my buddy Frank has to say about his new high-definition LCD TV, I don’t care what he thinks about the benefits of knee surgery, spas in Crested Butte, or where to take my children for their birthdays.
Facebook and Google, social networking, and the regular Internet are all different, and never the two shall meet.