Missing the Buzz - what Google could have done

So Gmail now incorporates Buzz, which to all intents and purposes looks like a watered down version of twitter/facebook with picasa and youtube links replacing twitpic and twitvid and I stated in the last post that I don't wish to have anything to do with this monstrosity.

Regular readers of this blog, and those of you who follow <a href="http://myrealwall.blogspot.com">my REAL wall</a> know what I think of crass status updates on facebook. For those of you who don't, my opinion of facebook status updates is that they are a nice thing to gossip about. And that's it. I believe facebook status updates have little intellectual value outside of self-promotion and marketing.

Recently Google have become obsessed with chasing this vaucous market oh tweets and status updates at the expense of real content and this ultimately has led to Buzz, which is a show of just how badly out of their depth they really are.

Google has always been about indexing content on the web. They are great at it and with their acquisition of Blogger from Pyralabs just over 10 years ago they moved into the business of providing a platform to create that content too.

Numerous acquisitions followed that blazed a trail for the company, showing that they were commited to content creation and sharing of knowledge and resources, such as picasa and youtube, which were both great acquisitions. They missed out on flickr of course.

With the media hyping up facebook and twitter, Google should have realised that the content creation tools had already been made in the area of microblogging and they should have chosen to catlogue that, but I think with the launch of Buzz they have signalled that content indexing is not enough for them. But their product is hugely flawed, years behind the competition and just unpalatable in so many ways, that it's unlikely in my opinion that takeup will justify the investment. Social networks are already cemented and google may just have to face that.

I think even hardened Google fans (I myself am one) will find todays rollout of Google Buzz disappointing. Really, you should ask yourselves, would this product, which is essentially a bit of a crap aggregator and oh-so-2007-Twitter/facebook clone have stood a chance of getting media coverage, let alone users if it had not been tagged on to the gmail interface? I think not.

So Google appear to be stuck in this mindset that they want a piece of the social pie and nothing we can say will change that. So how about considering what they could have done instead of release this patronising clone.

Firstly I feel that Google had already reinvented the wheel of social networking a few months ago with google wave. Although I didn't see it then, within the realm of the new social direction the company seems to want to take it makes perfect sense.

Google should have chosen to integrate wave-like features instead of wheeling out the same old "status update" rubbish that we've seen on twitter, facebook and ning among other places in thelast few years. The consumer is drowning in status updates, which contain little real meaty information in depth.

Why wave though?  On Twitter and facebook there is no-one I particularly want to create content with. I don't actually KNOW most of them in real life. However, my gmail contacts include my closest friends, my work colleagues and my family. These include people I would happily write a blog post with, or share (privately) work information through the email.

The gmail environment would be far better suited to being a workspace and collaborative area online for the creation of deep content, than to being a social area for discussing what my dog dug up last night.

To use a REAL wall analogy, my gmail space is my creative office space, a place for thinking and creating. Twitter and facebook are the pub where soundbites are an acceptable form of communication. By using the gmail interface to send status updates sends out the wrong message and panders to the lowest common demoninator. google need to pull this back and focus on the creation of much deeper content through sharing, rather than the piecemeal offerings of many, so that Buzz can rise above facebook on it's own terms, that of collaborative content generation, rather than individual posturing.

And ultimately, google would own all this deep content. Although it may not be an easy short term solution and will not immediately grab those status updatin' facebookers, google need to aim higher rather than directly at the opposition if they hope to hit the target.

(Andy Hoang is an e-learning advisor at Roehampton University - any opinions on this blog are his own and in no way reflect those of his employer)

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