The buzz on Buzz

Google Buzz logoI’m not exactly convinced by Google Buzz. And I’m not alone. I was asked by Mercedes Bunz at the Guardian to provide a comment on Google’s new social networking service – and there seems to be a consensus among those polled that Buzz is a long way from success.

I was asked “Will Buzz help Google keep up with Facebook?”. I replied:

“Buzz doesn’t have anything like the scope of Facebook. It’s more akin to Twitter – but it doesn’t really offer anything new. Sure, you can publish pics and videos, but any self-respecting Twitter software will do that too. And being able to type long status updates in Buzz ignores one of Twitter’s great appeals: distilling a thought into 140 characters.

But friends are more crucial than features – and there’s no escaping the fact that Twitter and Facebook have critical mass. Buzz will have all the appeal of an empty disco until it integrates fully with existing social networks, allowing you to aggregate and publish to all your social feeds at once.”

I was intrigued by the comments by Candace Kuss, who points out that Google is becoming less engineering-driven and more brand-driven. Unfortunately, as Candace points out, the Google brand is starting to feel more Microsoft than Apple, right down the colours in the logo.

Perhaps that’s a little unfair – Google is wildly successful, after all, and its core commitment to ‘organise the web’ as true now as it ever was. In fact, with Maps and Goggles, it’s starting to organise the real world too. But the Google brand isn’t necessarily something that people want to buy into. Which could explain the slow sales of the rather lovely Nexus One.

We expect Google to deliver simplicity, and we expect it to be free. We know it makes shedloads of money from advertising: and most people are happy to give Google lots of personal data in return for free software.

But we don’t necessarily want to hang out – or buy smartphones – at the free software place.

Read Question of the Week: Will Buzz help Google keep up with Facebook on Guardian.co.uk