Leaked yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, Google announced the deployment of Google Buzz, its exciting foray into providing its own real-time social media platform.
To say, however, Buzz is Google’s first social media venture is not quite right. In 2004, Google launched Orkut, its proprietary social network, to little fanfare and minimal Stateside impact to this day. According to demographic reports, over 50 percent of users hail from Brazil, roughly 20 percent from India, and a measly 17 percent from the US.
Interestingly, Google’s nascent real-time social media search has received considerably less media coverage (largely obscured by its release of Google Goggles on the same day and the existence of rivals like Collecta), although its ultimate impact on the largely untamed social media landscape, I think, could be tremendous. Echoing Michael Arrington’s sentiment, social media now feels like search did a decade ago. Perhaps Google can be the transformative force in real-time media, as it was in taming the vastness of the internet. Arrington writes:
A decade ago most of us were using AltaVista or something similar for search. No one was really complaining very much about the huge amount of spam and other noise that cluttered the results because we didn’t know there was a better way. Then Google came along with Page Rank, and had a profound effect on the quality of Internet search. Suddenly (and it really was that sudden), we couldn’t imagine going back to AltaVista and searching pages of results for the thing that Google gave us immediately.
The online social landscape today sort of feels to me like search did in 1999. It’s a mess, but we don’t complain much about it because we don’t know there’s a better way.
Google Buzz may very well be the piece of social media that “unites the clans,” so to speak. While Gmail has allowed its 146 monthly million users (as of July 2009) to update Gchat statuses, this functionality lacked the timeline-view that allows one to view her friends’ update history, akin to viewing friends’ feeds on Facebook and Twitter. While Buzz links to external sites like YouTube and Picasa (which it owns), it also links to Twitter but doesn’t link to Facebook. After a brief look at some of its other features and factors like competing ID systems, it becomes clear, I think, that Google is taking a big swing at Facebook with Google Buzz.
Multimedia sharing and viewing interface. A demonstration of Google Buzz’s multimedia viewing and sharing tools (see the video posted below) reveals moderately superior tools to Facebook’s. With roughly 15 billion photos (and adding 100 million/mo.) Facebook is quickly becoming the front-runner of user-generated online photo repositories (second only to ImageShack, which is growing at a much slower rate). It’s Facebook’s game to lose, and integration of Picasa into Buzz, which will ride Gmail’s coattails, will breathe new life into Google’s picture-posting positioning (say that three times fast).
Sharing privately and publicly & integration into Gmail. Unlike Facebook or Twitter (I think), Buzz will allow users to share updates with specific users (and only them, if the user so chooses), and will send responses immediately into one’s e-mail inbox. Beyond the benefit of automatically signing up users for Buzz, utilizing its integration into Gmail places Buzz updates in a much more interesting space than a mere update — part broadcast, part e-mail, part private message, all multimedia. A Google buzz communication may altogether become a new medium for communicating content-rich messages to one or many users.
And further, the demographic ubiquity of Gmail versus the relatively older crowd of Tweeters may make it the preferred broadcasting medium over Twitter, placing it in direct competition with Facebook.
… Gmail has historically added people to your contacts based on e-mail interactions. Hence, this contact list often varies significantly from your friends on social sites where relationships need to be made explicitly.
In other words, your Gmail contacts aren’t necessarily the same people you want to share status updates, photos and videos with. This is an issue that shouldn’t be overlooked in evaluating the new features Google is soon to unveil.
True story, Adam — but neither Facebook nor Twitter allows updates to reach a specific group of people (as I said, I could be wrong; it seems that the closest thing is Facebook’s multi-user messages). Separately, it’s oftentimes the case that Facebook users don’t want all of their Facebook friends (which include, in many cases, family members, co-workers and others who you’d prefer not to see the “less professional” side of you) to see their updates, and so end up not posting their updates altogether.
That’s my two cents on Google Buzz thus far. Please feel free to send/share thoughts and other articles as the subject gains more media traction. Until then, bask in the glow of Buzz’s demo video below.0