Thursday, February 18, 2010

So much Buzz on Google Buzz

On the 9h of Feb 2010 Google announced its latest venture into social media to compete against the likes of Twitter and Facebook. The social media world was watching the “Google Buzz”. The sign up page says Google Buzz will allow you to: “Go beyond status messages, share updates, photos videos and more. Start conversation on things you find interesting”

At a glance of Buzz earlier in the month it appeared quite interesting, I did receive some tweets (@sarahgriffiths) stating that “Buzz is not the new Twitter” and “Buzz.... how do I make it stop”, so not a very positive start, however a product that I would of course investigate. I was also interested to find out how they planned to integrate their other Google products into the package ie: Google Voice.

The concept behind Google Buzz

The design of Google Buzz is similar to that of FriendFeed which was acquired by Facebook back in August 2009. The plan was/is to integrate Google Buzz into Gmail, so that users of Gmail don’t need to go out and find their friends on various social networks, the platforms mission: to streamline the information such as status updates, tweets and media streams (photos, videos, links) whilst also adding location data and related information, with the premise of keeping all the information that matters to you and your email contacts in one place.

The overall concept does/did sound like being a time saver, especially if I can integrate my accounts. Also I favour/favoured the idea that it shares with me information that I like and seeds out the information that I will probably ditch and slide.

The problem

The big problem was the buzz in social networks and in the news (over 2K articles and counting) on Google breaking privacy laws and the notification that a local class action complaint had been filed in San Jose federal court. The law firm who filed the case (Mason LLP) is seeking damages of $100 per day per user for Buzz violating privacy rights. With this statement Google dropped $3.09 to $538.21 yesterday in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have declined 13 percent this year.

The complaint alleges that Google Buzz broke the law by sharing personal data without users consent. True: there was no opt into the service, and enrolment was automatic to over 176 million Gmail users. Google referred to Buzz as an out of the box solution to organise your online connections and looked positively at the collation of an automatic circle of friends (based on who you regularly email). However what they failed to consider on roll out, was the legal bodies/regulators and from a users perspective a big critic was if a user didn’t change their privacy settings in their profile, then the list of people they regularly contact could be made public. Implications of obtaining this data are pretty big if you consider who people maybe contacting, politicians, journalists, businesses...

Moving on

After a crisis meeting on the 12th of Feb, Google did act quickly to announce plans to allow Gmail users to disable the service altogether and they announced changes on the way that it handles private data and they continue to release statements on how they will continue to improve on the “Buzz experience”.

On the 16th of February 2010 Google admitted to the BBC that it had received a “ferocious backlash from users concerned about intrusions of privacy” and as a result of complaints, Google Buzz have now said that they will only suggest people that a user might want to be friends with.

If you need any tips on disabling Google Buzz, read the article from PC World editor JR Raphael titled: “GoodBye Google Buzz” which how gives a How to Guide on how you can remove Buzz from your Gmail

The future

Google Buzz product manager Todd Jackson said in the interview with the BBC that he was 'very, very sorry' for the upset the privacy errors caused to users. He added: 'If it becomes clear that people don't think we've done enough, we'll make more changes. We know we need to improve things.'

Google Buzz could of potentially been a possible contender to rival the industry leader Facebook, however many analysts and experts in social media are now saying that with this controversial launch there is little chance that Google Buzz will catch up to Facebooks membership levels which currently exceed 400 million.

All pretty dramatic for a new product launch isn't it ! Personally I am staying away from Buzz for a while, until the dust has settled and all the privacy tweaks are ironed out.

As this blog post portrays I am currently undecided as to whether I am a fan of Google Buzz. I know that I am happy with my social networks, I feel that friendfeed is a great place to collate all your communications, so would like to ambassador that.

Personally I don't use Gmail that much for communication, it has been more of a tool for me to receive email subscriptions and updates. Also I am finding that I am unsubscribing from more and more E-news letters, as I now prefer "to go and get" the information rather than be sent it. The majority my social communication is via Facebook, Twitter, Phone & Pub.

Please feel free to comment on this post on how you generally communicate with your social networks ? and whether you believe that Google Buzz has the potential to rock your social world?

My thoughts are with Todd Jackson and his crisis team.

For more information on the legal investigations, read this article from the BBC on 17th February titled: “Google Buzz “breaks privacy laws” says watchdog”:

Keep up to date with changes and find out more about:
Google Buzz here on The Official Google Blog .

Author: Sarah Griffiths


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