Yesterday and today, those who actively used Gmail were greeted with that prompt if they wanted to try Buzz, which proclaimed to organize and give some ranking to all the social networks we use today. This idea is great for Google, because it seems to be a chance for them to spread their global empire. Lots of people already are signed into Gmail pretty often, so why not take it beyond the point of chat and make it more “social”.
I’ve spent the evening playing with Buzz, and I think I’ve gotten the logistics down. It is something like a Twitter/Facebook baby, but that baby was premature and uuugly. Or better yet, a less-elegant version of the mostly defunct FriendFeed. Either way, besides from the integration with Gmail, it’s really nothing new, especially when you consider that it’s using some of the technologies from Wave, the other recent Google project that was more breaker than tsunami.
That said, here are a few of my observations about Buzz:
- Replies are threaded under any post on Buzz, which is a nice change from Twitter, but they aren’t done so the most concise way. It’d be better if the default option allowed from compressed replies, almost like a blog post. Some replies are collapsed upon your second viewing of a buzz; only the new ones are visible.
- There are also two tiers when you reply to a post: on just sits like a comment, the other is an @ reply (maybe they assumed they had to use @ since it’s now burned into our brains). The @ reply will send your comment into the recipient’s inbox, unless all new comments also go to their inbox… It’s a little confusing at this point.
- Messages seem to filter into your inbox if either you reply to a comment, or a person. Either way, it seems to create a lot of email for a service already sitting directly below the Inbox button.
- It seems to be smarter about location than many other services. If you own an Android-based phone, you will get additional cool services like Google Map integration, but a test post from a friend using Safari on the iPhone still had a mappable location tag. But that means you’ll be updating Buzz instead of Twitter, Foursquare, or Gowalla. Hopefully they’ll think of a way to export location posts to those services.
- Embedded photos and videos move somewhat smoother than Facebook, in my opinion. This could change when you’re dealing with more content from more users, but at this point YouTube clips are simple to watch.
- Some blog have also raised privacy concerns, including that you can see comments made by anyone, and that you can see the followers of any user. Your gmail address is also more easy to track down if you post comments, or if someone replies to you. And these settings are things that you have to opt out of, not that you choose to opt in to.
- While you can sync your Twitter stream, I have trouble rationalizing that. I can presume, many people, like myself, are on all of the services; I already have qualms about posting my Twitter updates to Facebook because I don’t want repetitive content for those who follow me in both places. Will I be able to mute tweets from Buzz users I follow if I also follow them on Twitter?
This last point is my main issue with Buzz. Even with the addition of a few tweaks, why would I use this over Twitter and Facebook? It’s not innovative enough to warrant stealing my time, and I already feel like I’m stretched thin on my online social activities at some points. Then again, in 2007 I asked myself why anyone would want pieces of my life at 140 characters at a time, so I will give Buzz some time to make improvements and then gauge its success.