Our regular dive into the murky waters of the blogosphere today addresses the thorny issue of Google Buzz. What exactly is Buzz? Why has Google launched Buzz? Is it any good?
In case any martians are reading this, I should point out that Google has this week launched Google Buzz. A kind of mobile, hybrid Facebook and Twitter, accessible from your handset and utilising GPS... well, why don't we let the Google Blog explain?
Google Buzz: what it is
After spending a deal of time outlining Google's 'vision' for social media, organising information and the web, the Google Blog gets down to business:
"Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting. It's built right into Gmail, so you don't have to peck out an entirely new set of friends from scratch - it just works."
Importantly, you can target exactly who gets your posts. Google search technology will, Google tells us, ensure you see only posts you are interested in, regardless of whether you follow the poster or not.
And Google intends for Buzz to be a mobile technology - because it's smartphones that let you tell people your location.
"On your phone, Google Buzz is much more than just a small screen version of the desktop experience. Mobile devices add an important component to sharing: location.
"Posts tagged with geographical information have an extra dimension of context - the answer to the question "where were you when you shared this?" can communicate so much. And when viewed in aggregate, the posts about a particular location can paint an extremely rich picture of that place."
The Google Mobile Blog expands this further:
"Your location brings valuable context to the information you share. For example, does "Delicious dinner!" mean you're at a great restaurant, or that you had a wonderful home-cooked meal? Your mobile phone, which is with you almost all the time, can help answer these questions."
Google Buzz: why?
So, you know, great. But why would Google do such a thing? According to Frank Reed at Marketing Pilgrim, the reason is clear: more control over the smartphone market, and therefore the web.
"Another prong of their attack on Facebook, Twitter, Apple and the online world in general relates to the move into smartphones / mobile devices which are becoming a critical component of the social web.
"As more and more chances pop up to tell everyone about everything, those who feel the need will want to do this at any time so being able to use these services ‘on the go' is critical. Google's Android movement is now looking to be more and more important as the likelihood for Google apps to best work on, you guessed it, a Google device makes good business sense."
Google Buzz: is it any good?
So that's that then, right? Google Buzz is going to wipe the floor with all other social networks.
Certainly Jason Calacanis thinks so. The dotcom and blogging legend, founder of the human search engine Mahalo.com, posted a glowing report on Buzz saying that its excellence reduces Facebook's value by half.
"Google Buzz is brilliant. Like ground-breaking, game-changing brilliant."
Why is he so impressed? No fewer than six reasons. Chief among them: Buzz is much better now than Facebook was after several years, it autogenerates a community, and Google is better at privacy than Facebook will ever be.
Google Buzz: security
The last point is intriguing, because within hours of its launch, users had spotted a flaw in Google Buzz. Writing on the Business Insider blog, Nicholas Carlson explains all:
"The problem is that - by default - the people you follow and the people that follow you are made public to anyone who looks at your profile.
"In other words, before you change any settings in Google Buzz, someone could go into your profile and see the people you email and chat with most."
Naturally, this is something that Google spins as a positive:
"In other words, after you create your profile in Buzz, if you don't edit any of the default settings, someone could visit your profile and see the people you email and chat with most (provided you didn't edit this list during profile creation)."
Good or bad thing, you decide. Carlson (a journalist) is clear:
"In my profession - where anonymous sourcing is a crucial tool - the implications of this flaw are terrifying."
So if you work in a profession where you need to hide who you speak to (or you are John Terry), check out Business Insider for how to protect this information.
Google Buzz: the case for the prosecution
So it's either a security flaw or a feature, and lots of people are very positive about Buzz. But many, many people are not. Some of the anti-Buzz buzz is, naturally, knee-jerk reaction from internet blowhards, but some is more considered.
Infoworld's Robert X Cringely is one of the latter group. He objects to the pre-populated nature of Google Buzz friends:
"Before I'd even logged on some random stranger had already befriended me: a not-unattractive woman who appears to live in South America.
"I ran through the usual gamut of questions in my mind. Have I slept with this person? Do I owe her money? Is she a stalker? What does she look like from the neck down? Her Twitter feed, YouTube page, and blog offered no clues. But I followed her back anyway, because hell, it's what you do.
"Meanwhile, Buzz had already connected me to 10 people in my Gmail address book - the 10 people I've actually sent email to on the service, most of whom are not technically savvy and will have no clue about (or interest in) what Buzz is or does. I'm pretty sure I haven't slept with any of them; I hope I don't owe them money."
He complains about the pollution of his email inbox with 'buzzes', and the way that certain features simply didn't work.
Google Buzz: the verdict
So is it any good, or not? Impossible to say at this stage. But check out PC Advisor's Google Buzz review for a more considered opinion. And why not give Buzz a try on your mobile: details of how to do so in our review.
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