What is Google Buzz? Will Buzz Blindside Twitter and Facebook?

Google Buzz just took our Twitterverses by storm. We didn’t ask for it, but suddenly Buzz was just there. Like a little beach ball shaped Trojan horse, it wheeled right in. It plopped down in the middle of our micro-blogging lives and was like… Oh, Hey Guys. And then it rolled us a joint and we were like okay, sure whatever, because it was right there.

And that’s Google Buzz’s first strength. It’s extremely easy to use. It’s native to our Gmail. And that’s real sneaky and real smart, Google. Because you know how much we love sitting there gazing at our inboxes and waiting for something awesome to happen. Perhaps Google Wave was merely a high-profile diversion all along? Like how new Coke reminded us how much we loved old Coke, kind of?

Gauging immediate reactions to the advent of Google Buzz, I’d say most people I know were like what the hell is this for? But the key is that they were Buzzing about it. And today they kept Buzzing.

Here are my thoughts so far. I’ll admit that I was a Twitter skeptic when it rolled out. I’ve since evolved. These days I tweet like a mofo, but I don’t use Facebook for much of anything. Pretty much just to check which weirdos I knew in high school decided to get hitched and where my friends will be drinking at any given moment. Full disclosure. So here’s how I see it so far.

GOOGLE BUZZ’S FATAL FLAWS?

1. I don’t particularly want my email interwoven with my forays into social media. I email my grandma. I email homicidal maniacs on Craigslist for cheap furniture. I email all manner of  unseemly individuals who I don’t want any sort of more intimate dialogue with.

Most people seem to be all worked up about how other Buzzers can see your most frequent contacts. Hell, I don’t care about that so much as I want to know who can see my Buzz itselfI like to keep my projected online awesome life separate from my mundane real life so no one knows when the things I say are elaborate (but well-woven) lies. What if Google Buzz somehow mixes these two worlds without my knowledge and I have to stop lying all the time? That would totally suck. I promise Technostraddle would get so much lamer.

2. Twitter allows you to connect to celebrities, organizations and personalities you might not otherwise have access to. Because they live in L.A. and have bodyguards and stuff. And “restraining orders” and “prosecuting attorneys.”

I think Twitter’s ability to neutralize the weird space between you and the people you admire, support or stalk is one of its coolest understated features. This is possible at all because Twitter is largely disconnected from the rest of our online lives or real lives, whatever you call them. We get one link and a low-res profile picture and that’s all. Then only the tweets remain.

How that notion of a level playing field will connect to Buzz is less clear. It may work for small-scale social networking, but what about when we want to Buzz at Rachel Maddow? Or Martha Stewart?

3. Much like Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, neither can live while the other survives. Twitter and Google Buzz cannot co-exist because they’re cramming themselves into a niche that’s too tiny. Of course Facebook, while still squeezing onto this proverbial getting-pretty-crowded micro-blogging couch, doesn’t just offer tweet-like status updates through the news feed. It’s got all kind of information that makes us accountable for what we did last night, from regrettably tagged photo albums to our fluctuating sexual orientations.

But what if they could co-exist? Facebook’s news feed and Twitter live side-by-side amicably enough. They even overlap. Will the ability to feed our tweets through Buzz gradually reel the Twitterholics in? Will a Buzz crowd and a Twitter crowd emerge, much like there’s a Facebook crowd and (unfortunately) a Myspace crowd?

HOW GOOGLE BUZZ MAY BLINDSIDE TWITTER AND FACEBOOK:

1. Google’s getting sneaky. And I think I like it. This whole Buzz thing is kinda like when Google popped up with Google Voice for the iPhone not so long ago in a move that totally side-stepped Apple’s eternal pending review of the Voice app (and Apple’s understandable but still unjust reluctance to approve it). I mean, this thing is sitting right there in our inboxes. We don’t have to go to an awkwardly separate login like we did the one time we logged onto Google Wave.

2. Buzz allows for more continuous conversation. Like Facebook (or Wave) we won’t have the need to rummage around for the fractured pieces of who-said-what like we do with tweets. That’s nice because it still bugs me.

3. Buzz has a “like” button. With an emoticon, no less. Do not underestimate the power of the like button.

4. Resolute non-Twits can use Buzz guilt-free and maintain their moral superiority. I’m sure that appeals to a certain self-righteous demographic.

5. Google Buzz totally butted in to our lives. It’s there and we have to actually execute an action to make it go away. That’s powerful.

6. Google implemented Buzz in the opposite way they tried to give us Google Wave. All of the sudden Buzz was there and we were curious so we started using it and it was intuitive and then one thing led to another. Wave was really exciting when it was in hype-mode and really disappointing and disorienting for most people when it transitioned into reality. Kind of like when you cross state lines to meet someone you’ve only talked to online who claims to be a a really handsome young Nigerian prince with this great business proposition for you, but then it’s actually just Chris Hansen from MSNBC. And you’re f*cked.

WANT TO TWEAK YOUR BUZZ?

+ Feed your Twitter to Buzz. Click the Buzz link under your Gmail inbox. Right next to your profile picture (which looks really nice, btw) there’s a link for “connected sites.” There ya go-all kinds of stuff! Add away.

+ Worried about your privacy? Us too. Lifehacker’s got you covered with some more privacy tips.

+ Make an individual Buzz “private.” Then only people you’ve explicitly approved can know about all those terrible things you do and did and will continue doing. Below the text input box there is a drop down menu. If you only want approved followers to see your buzzes, select “private” before publishing your text.

Unfortunately, you can’t change this after a Buzz is published (yet). I’ll probably learn that the hard way. Also you have to make a group and stick your approved Buzz onlookers in there which is both irritating and awkward. But surprisingly, if you want all of your Buzz updates to be private it seems to change the default selection on this menu to whatever you picked last. I was ready to be up in arms about that.

+ Turn off Buzz email updates, because they are probably bugging you.

+ Or hell, turn Buzz off entirely. Yes, there’s a tiny link in size -4 font down at the bottom of the Gmail homepage to “turn off buzz,” but of course turning it off is way more complicated than that. Because Google thinks they can successfully force us to use their new product by making everything about how to remove it complex and awkward. Opacity really isn’t the best policy here Google. It’s not the best policy ever. Stop being an asshole.

What do you guys think? Is Buzz a privacy-wrecking Google demon? Or are you buzzin’ about Buzz? Buzzed on Buzz? Is it a Buzzkill?  Please, stop me.

Taylor has written 137 articles for us.

39 Comments

  1. I am unsure as to whether I need another social networking platform in my life.
    but I still want it.

    thank you for the harry potter reference.
    (omg I’m going to the wizarding world of harry potter at universal in december.)

    • No way. Do you know the exact date of it opening yet?! I’m dying to know. I wanted to fit it into my Spring Break.. but I don’t think that will be happening.

      I refuse to even look at Google Buzz because I don’t want to be sucked in. I tried to get rid of most of those sites but then I realized that is what most people use to get a hold of me because they are afraid of the telephone. Sigh.

  2. Something I immediately noticed in my gmail is that someone I blocked from my gmail contacts is automatically following me in buzz, and because that person has no public profile, I cannot block him. I find this highly creepy and disturbing.

  3. This just adds to another social networking site I have to worry about broadcasting too much. It’s an interesting concept but I don’t see how Buzz is going to overtake Twitter. None of this is as scary as Brightkite was though.

  4. Buzz TOTALLY CREEPS ME OUT. I turned it off right away b/c I’m totally afraid that I’ll slip and my grandma/teachers will see my buzzes even though I tried to put it on “private”…

  5. i am not social network savvy and i resist everything…BUT i hate this stupid google buzz.

    it makes me sad i do NOT want to learn any more social network sites, or even re-learn facebook every time they give it a face lift. /whine.

    on other another note: can you please do a review of internet browsers? like chrome, firefox, and any other my non-savvy brain doesn’t know about? pretty please!

  6. I clicked on this article with the hope that I could finally use my “buzz kill” joke. I’ve been waiting for just the right moment. I thought, “You’ll totally throw ‘buzz kill’ out there and everyone will love you. Everyone will think you’re so cool and witty. Your life is looking up!” I read and read. “Great! She hasn’t said it! This Is Your Time For Greatness.” Then BAM! right at the end it’s there, and my dreams were crushed. Then I decided to over-share. Now I’m going to cry in the corner and probably rock back and forth a bit. I wish this comment was a joke. You don’t know how badly I wish that.

  7. I saw that pop up one day when I was getting on my Gmail and was like AW HELL NO. It’s turned off. Fuck you, Buzz.

    Then again I’m probably the last person on Earth who isn’t on Twitter.

  8. From what I’ve been reading, Buzz could be the bridge to Wave… interesting. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t find it useful yet. The thing is, it’s basically doing the same job as my Google Reader.

    And trust me, between Reader and Buzz, between Reader and anyone, Reader is my one true love. I mean, you can get most of these updates in a better format and with better privacy settings there. No pressure to “interact”.

    So: I think Buzz is a great product though I don’t need it and I find it overshares a bit.

  9. I don’t understand why you didn’t use any of my quotes, including the one where I used the phrase “buzzsaw,” so I don’t like you anymore, but I still like Buzz.

  10. Google, most times, I love you. This was the worst of all possible missteps. I get why it seemed brilliant at the time, but really, Google? You didn’t see how this could turn out very negatively? Even *I* turned off buzz because my uncle Izzy doesn’t need to know I got raging drunk last week, and my half-brother doesn’t need to know JUST how irritating I find him.

  11. A lot of people have commented on the privacy issues affiliated with Buzz, but (in my opinion) no one has managed to clearly articulate why this matters as well as this author:

    http://fugitivus.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/fuck-you-google/

    “I use my private Gmail account to email my boyfriend and my mother.

    There’s a BIG drop-off between them and my other “most frequent” contacts.

    You know who my third most frequent contact is?

    My abusive ex-husband.”

  12. WHY ISN’T IT EASIER TO SHUT OFF?

    I mean everything else has “settings” but Google Buzz doesn’t, why don’t they make it easier to block people and customize your settings, a la facebook? I shouldn’t have to read lifehacker to know how to disable it. I will always read technostraddle tho, obvi

    • Google Buzz = EPIC FAIL on all levels. I use my private Gmail account to communicate with a variety of people. Some of my contacts I have had a falling out with, some of whom I am afraid of. They’re still stuck on the contact list, however.

      Anyway, I totally missed the buzz about Google Buzz. I logged onto Gmail last week and it asked me if I wanted to add this thing called Buzz. I said, hm, ok – what is Buzz? If I click “yes” it won’t hurt. Then I was like, I really don’t need this, so I “turned it off” on the bottom of my Gmail page, thinking I had disabled it.

      So then what Taylor said basically happened without my knowing for days. Quoting taylor: “I like to keep my projected online awesome life separate from my mundane real life so no one knows when the things I say are elaborate (but well-woven) lies. What if Google Buzz somehow mixes these two worlds without my knowledge and I have to stop lying all the time? That would totally suck.”

      Yeah, clicking the “turn buzz off” at the bottom of Gmail DOESN’T ACTUALLY TURN IT OFF.

      I only have a few Reader followers, and I thought I was publishing only to them. NOPE. Now I am spending needless UNBILLABLE time – yeah, I’m working right now, too (from home, which is why I have internet now, but I can’t bill when I’m not actually doing work) – trying to shut this fucking thing off without losing my Reader followers, which doesn’t seem to be working.

      Anyway, I can’t wait for Google to be slapped with a massive class action lawsuit over Buzz. This is worse than the Facebook Beacon debacle, which is the subject of a class action. At least with Facebook you know you’re sharing information, because – DUH – it’s a social networking site! With Buzz, it launched off of Gmail, which is an e-mail program, and *you have a reasonable expectation of privacy when you are using e-mail*. Buzz grabs your e-mail contacts and sticks you on a social networking application embedded in the e-mail program via desceptive practices. Google deserves to be punished severely.

      Yeah, I’m mad.

      • You should try unlinking Google Reader and Buzz. There’s a button near your profile at the top of the Buzz home page that says “connected sites.” If you unlink Google Reader, it won’t publish any shared stories on Buzz. Not a perfect fix, but better than nothing.

      • that’s absurd! google’s choice to withhold the information necessary for us to make an informed decision about this whole buzz thing is a really shady move and an abuse of their position as the default email choice for…er…everyone. i still can’t get it all straight about the privacy. all i know is that i want my buzzes to be “private” but i’m still not convinced that my grandmother/realtor can’t see them.

        • Oh, what a laugh. I blocked all of my followers and now I’m being notified that 21 people are requesting that I share my content with them. (Including Brooke and Riese, LOL!) I am pretty sure neither of them actually requested that I do so in the last 15 minutes. What do I call this? AutoGoogle.

          But seriously, half of the people who just “requested” I share my information aren’t even online!!! Stupid Google!

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