Google Buzz: The Big Misdirection
Fri, Feb 12, 10
Google has introduced another platform. Well, maybe another product. Okay, perhaps another feature in Gmail. Surely, it must be another piece of Google beta spaghetti on the wall, no? No.
Google Buzz didn’t percolate in Google Labs, where laymen could try it out at their pleasure. It suddenly appeared in your inbox. Edward Ho, tech lead for Buzz explains the big idea:
Five years ago, Gmail was just email. Later we added chat and then video chat, both built right in, so people had choices about how to communicate from a single browser window.
Trust me, I didn’t lift this from the Microsoft court documents in the illegal product bundling trial. But if you ineptly launched a product, okay a platform, with underwhelming aesthetics, poor interaction design, overabundance of functionality but with little focus in the form of Google Wave and received more jokes than traction, what would you do for an encore? Why of course, you’d force feed it over a product, err, platform with 175 million users. Why wouldn’t you want to use Google Buzz within Google Gmail running in Google Chrome browser on Google Chrome OS powering a Google tablet? Everything in a “single browser window” indeed.
A nation of whiners
Now that they shifted their attention from the “big iPod touch,” geeks are divided on Buzz. Some are stuck in details. Jolie O’Dell asks in RWW: “In addition to creating ‘best guesses’ for who to friend and follow using Gmail & Google Talk, why doesn’t Google simply use Twitter OAuth and Facebook Connect to import existing friendships?” Like, “Why doesn’t Apple just allow Flash on iPhones and iPads?” Right.
Most jumped on Google’s appalling attempt to strong arm its way into unsuspecting Gmail users’ inboxes by automatically injecting Buzz into private email workflow and then making it very obscure to get rid of it. It takes a few steps, okay maybe a dozen or so steps, to re-privatize your follower list so that you don’t inadvertently expose your hitherto private Gmail life to the rest of the world. Obviously, if you were looking for design and interaction clarity in Google products, let alone personal data privacy, you are barking up the wrong Silicon Valley pole.
So Buzz received a harsh welcome in some quarters. There’s always that nagging question, now that Google is in a mad rush to Microsoftdom, is it hell bent on devouring all other social networks in its path to online domination?
Has Google become a startup killer?
According to many, with Buzz Google’s trying to kill Twitter. And Facebook. And FriendFeed. (Alright, FriendFeed was acquired last year by FaceBook so this is a double whammy.) And Yammer. And Yelp. And Foursquare. And Gowalla. And BlockChalk. And Yahoo! Updates. (Yes, I know, you can’t kill the undead.) And Jaiku. (Oops, Google already owns it.) And whatever Microsoft may introduce in 2011, or later.
However, the company that couldn’t make Orkut, Google Video, Latitude, Google Base, Knol, Google Catalog, Dodgeball, Google Answers and many other products successful may have a hard time killing off its competitors. Of course attention whores with conflicts of interest like Jason Calacanis already declared Buzz the winner: “Facebook is going to see their traffic get cut in half by Google Buzz.” Well, that settles it then.
The Big Misdirection
Why exactly did Google create Buzz anyway? According to Google’s Open Web Advocate Chris Messina:
This is a downpayment on where we’re going with the open, social web…
Yes, the open web. Where you could go tinker with a product’s source code openly and freely. Like you could with Buzz. What, you can’t? How about its parent Gmail? No, not open either? You could use Buzz without Google Profile, no? No choice there either? Confusing?
For what business reason would Google offer Buzz then? To shift most online activity to its unified platform so that it can make money from search/advertising, its sole cash cow, you might answer. Surely, Google’s search/ads business must then be open, no? No? Isn’t Google the most prominent champion of the “open web”? They made Android open, didn’t they? You could go tinker with the source code of what makes an Android phone attractive and meaningful, right? Like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Apps, Google Voice and so on? No? The crown jewels of the Android and Chrome OS kingdoms, the “open” alternative to the iPhone and iPad, are not open? Something’s wrong.
Now imagine if Microsoft or Apple did this. The blogosphere would have exploded with self-righteous indignation. But we already know Microsoft and Apple are evil. Google, the “Don’t be evil” company, obviously, is not.
Magic acts are entertaining only if you can’t spot the misdirection.