Archive for the ‘Buzz’ Category
In the beginning — waaaay back 10 years or so before the Internet — there were the dial-up online services — The Source, CompuServe and America Online (aka AOL). Among other things, they offered an email product that allowed users to communicate with almost anybody in the world via something called the Internet.
Keep in mind that the Internet, up until then, had been a network used mainly by scientists and academics. The World Web showed up much later, with the creation of the Mosaic browser in 1993.
The Source, CompuServe and AOL eventually swallowed each other up, leaving AOL as the last one standing. To early users, it was the entire online experience, and people used AOL and the Internet interchangeably. In the mid 1990s, CompuServe and AOL tried to maintain their positions as the gateway, but once people realized a single click could take them to any site in the world, that was a lost cause.
Ever since then, various web sites have sought to be “all things to all people.” A few — notably Yahoo! and Google — have come close, integrating search, news, email and instant messaging. But sooner or later, another player arrives to dilute the market further. Google has made several attempts to break into the social media message-oriented market, with the most recent entry being Buzz, but it hasn’t caught fire. Yahoo’s entry seems to be stuck in the starting box as well.
For the moment, Hitwise tells us that Facebook has passed Google as the busiest site, but its messaging has been limited in that you could only send messages to other Facebook users. For a while now, rumors have circulated that Facebook plans to roll out an enhancement to its message system, perhaps adding pop email. Some have dubbed this the “Gmail killer,” which is more a compliment to Gmail than anything else. But I don’t expect it to matter much because:
- Everybody already has email, and there’s no compelling reason to change. It may well be that we all end up with a Facebook mail account, but I don’t see it changing the way we use Facebook much.
- Corporate email won’t switch to Facebook. Many companies have banned Facebook because people waste so much time on the site, so they’re certainly not going to give up their branded corporate email addresses for Facebook, even if employees can use the Facebook mail product without visiting the site.
- The typical reaction to newly introduced add-ons these days is for people to enroll with a shrug and a yawn. That’s been the case with Buzz, as well with everybody’s IM services. Many of us now use multi-protocol IM clients (Pidgin, Digsby, Meebo, eBuddy etc.) to accommodate all the platforms people use. Mine usually runs with Yahoo!, AOL, MSN, GTalk and Facebook accounts running at the same time. The contacts all show up in a single window, and I’m rarely even aware of which account someone else is using, just as I don’t much care whether somebody’s email address is AOL, MSN, Gmail or a corporate server.
Facebook has come closer than any site since the old AOL to becoming the entry level gateway to the Internet, but there’s no reason to believe that the Facebook stairway reaches to the sky. None ever has. My very subjective sense of things is that people will, at some point, want to simplify the way they communicate rather than continue to add redundant services.
Google Buzz has rolled out a new API that allows third-party applications like TweetDeck, Seesmic and Boxee to read Buzz messages and post to the services. Now the question is whether it is too late to save Buzz.
Buzz started with a splash, followed by a series of privacy gaffes (Gmail users were members whether they asked to be or not), and since then things have just settled down. My sense of the current status is that all the air has gone out of its sails. Nobody goes to Buzz as a matter of habit like they do with Facebook and Twitter. It just sort of sits there, picking up tweets from Gmail users. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “I can’t wait to post that on Buzz.”
But third-party applications could change that. The service itself is worth saving. It’s well designed and intuitive, capable of carrying much longer messages than Twitter, and it doesn’t have the Facebook privacy baggage.
Google’s Buzz looks like the first volley in what might turn into a war with Facebook. At least, we have to wonder if that’s the case, because the one glaring element missing is any connectivity at all with Facebook. Of course, it could always come later, and we have to assume it will. I mean, heck, everything interfaces with Facebook, doesn’t it? But nobody seems to know yet. Buzz does seem to make it very easy to integrate posts, photos and videos from Twitter, Picasa and Flickr. But the Google folks aren’t making it nearly so easy to update other systems. Photos uploaded go into Picasa, Google’s photo sharing product. But your Buzzes (is that what we’ll call them?) won’t go to Twitter, probably because they’d have to find a way to go from the Buzz capacity (seemingly unlimited) to the 140-word Twitter limit.
If Buzz catches on, the ability to accommodate longer messages and public conversations will offer an enticing alternative to Facebook. Whether it will have the broadcasting capabilities of Twitter via something like lists or tags has yet to be seen.
Further muddying the water is the rumor that Facebook is getting ready to roll out an email service that, like Gmail, will support pop and imap. Obviously, they’re hoping that Facebook’s growing role as an all-purpose communications hub will give Facebook email some legs. But Gmail has a lot of advantages. It’s a mature, excellent product that is more intuitive than previous email systems. But more importantly, a Gmail address is increasingly playing a central role in business use, with calendar and directory functions that sync easily with Outlook (for a fraction of the cost of an Exchange server), Google Analytics and Google’s growing array of applications. Google’s Android system for handsets is an important part of this strategy, keeping the handset in sync with Google contacts and calendar in real time. (I’ve never even plugged my Android into my PC except to charge it.)
Perhaps most important is the question of whether anybody on Facebook needs another email address. Likewise, people will ask whether Gmail users need another social network. This may get interesting.