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Vadim Lavrusik Rss

Let’s not get too excited about Google Buzz just yet

Posted on : 02-08-2010 | By : Vadim Lavrusik | In : Search, Social Media

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

10

Update: Here is a Mashable post that highlights the release of the new feature.

Google is making a move into social media with a new status feature that it will launch for its Gmail users, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Though the Web is a buzz about the possibility and implications this new feature, which aims to showcase the statuses and content sharing of Gmail users in a similar stream like Twitter, there are several factors to consider before we draw conclusions – especially ones that pronounce this being a future competitor to Facebook or Twitter.

Previous attempts

First, let’s remember Google’s last mostly failed attempt at creating their own social network: Orkut. Okay, perhaps saying it is a failure is an overstatement, but the site has only been able to cease a large market of users in Brazil, and most recently Facebook has been moving into that market. Orkut’s overall traffic, however, has continued to decline, and that likely is reflective of its user-base as well.

Second, Google tried to make Google Reader more social by adding follow features, similar to Twitter and other social services that mostly haven’t had the effect people anticipated. From my understanding and observations, people have stuck with other services that include those similar functions.

Why this time might be different

However, this time it might be different and the implementation of a social stream may actually catch on this time. Why? A couple of simple reasons:

  1. User-base: According to the report, Google is not only introducing the feature to an existing base of Gmail users (37 million unique visitors in July). That’s a lot of users that the feature could attract. Google could potential grab users that want all their social interaction in one spot.
  2. Third-party integration: The stream of status updates and content would include Google-owned applications like YouTube and Picasa, as well as the potential for third-party applications as well. If Google decides to integrate other services, it has the potential for being a one-stop shop for social Google users, an attempt similar to Friendfeed.

Conclusions

Apparently Google may announce these features tomorrow. The details might give us a better idea of what the implications these features might truly have. My take is that Google may have learned from it’s past mistakes and will continue to strive to provide a one-stop shop for its users.

My guess is that the features will make some of our networking with users more effecient, but not necessarily replacing our use of other status-updating or content distributing social services like Facebook or Twitter. People don’t want another social network, at least most don’t. They just want what is already there to be improved. Perhaps Google Buzz can do that.

Comments (10)

This is one of those occasions where, even though I like Google and all its free and excellent products, I have to say, “Stick to your strong suit, Goog.” I think the fall of Microsoft out of favor with pretty much everyone happened when it started trying to branch out into areas it just couldn't be good at. Everything subsequently started sucking from there. I'd love it if Google could pull this sort of thing off, but at the same time, Orkut and others are evidence of its (at least prior) ineptitude when it comes to social media.

I agree with you. Every time I heard Google was launching some services, I always felt quite excited about it, but this time it doesn't sound that cool that Google is stepping into SM crowd.

I feel like the issue I have with gmail status updates is that I email a lot of random people. Do I really want the guy who bought my couch from craigslist knowing or reading what I thought about the latest news? Sure, if he happens to stumble upon it on a site we both read, thats fine, but me directly letting him know or however 100s of other random people I've emailed in the past years, is just not something I see wanting to do.

Gmail has a really bad tendency (I guess some would say good) of keeping every person you ever emailed in your contacts list. Sure, I can go in and clean it out, but I don't have to. If I decide to use the gmail social status feature, I'm going to need to vet 100's of people. That's just not something I'm willing to do.
An issue twitter has is that you need followers, and gmail would give you a starting point, but I doubt I'm the only person that feels somewhat uncomfortable with my gmail contacts knowing everything I would normally tweet or write a FB status about.
I'm sure I could find a use for gmail status updates, but to say its a twitter killer is really a stretch for now.
Maybe my thoughts will change once I hear more information tomorrow, but that' my current stance.
Sounds great in theory, but there are too many people I don't want to interact with in my contacts that I would be hesitant.
In addition, Google's attempts in the past have been far from a threat to current players in the field when it comes to social.
I'd love for them to prove me wrong, but doubtful.

Vadim
nice piece, i would have liked to have seen a comment on google wave in this article though. it is telling that you didn't mention probably because Google Wave has fallen off the radar. I know some people who use it but compared to the hype when it came out I can't imagine they are totally thrilled with its usage. Perhaps when Chrome OS launches. And that is another thing: perhaps this is a play to put social into the cloud on Chrome OS computers going forward

Limor and Shane. I think you both get at something: Google hasn't succeeded with this in the past. I think for them to be successful in SM, they need to think (as cheesy as this sounds) outside of the box of what is already out there. They tend to do what everyone has already found successful and entering into a very busy market. Seems strange.

Good call. The hype from Google Wave has mostly settled. I think that was their best attempt at looking at social and email in a new way, but there are far too many kinks that need to be worked out yet for it to gain traction.

I agree there's some merit to sticking to doing what you do best. But in this case, the tide is moving so strongly toward social media being an even more integrated part of our lives, that Google would be foolish to sit on the sidelines. They have to do something, and creating their own social network isn't the answer.

I agree, Vadim, that the move will likely just make Google's already popular Gmail service more efficient. E-mail is the original social network, so to speak, and if they can augment Gmail with today's social networking tools, they may have something. I'm certain I read somewhere that e-mail is by far still the most popular way people share information.

I agree with you on most counts, Vadim, but I'm a little more excited than you are. Yes, Orkut hasn't been a wild success. And no, Reader hasn't become the Web's social dashboard.

That said, I think this move is smart, and a long time coming. Jeremiah Owyang wrote a while back that email was the next big social network. If you look at the Economist's recent report on social networking, you'll see Windows Live at #2 on the list, right after Facebook. Gmail's hundreds of millions of users represent a similar user base.

I've read commentary by any number of people calling into doubt the utility of gmail as a source for connections; after all, do you *want* to broadcast to everyone you emailed?

Well, do you want to @reply to anyone on Twitter? That's meant to be a rhetorical; the answer is a yes, with the appropriate filter to take the conversation private. Here, of course, a DM would be an email, or potentially an SMS.

One important thing to consider is how Google may be further positioning itself here: as a social dashboard. That takes it into the same space as Tweetdeck or Seesmic, except that here they have an existing desktop client that's got all sorts of useful communication functionality already: Google Talk. When you consider that users can use video, chat or SMS already, there's much to recommend the app. Add in services for video (YouTube) and pictures (Picassa) and you can see a ready-made ecosystem for communication in place.

Years ago, we might have wondered whether if users would really want to broadcast status updates. In 2000, you'd set a status message for your network and change as needed. In 2010, hundreds of millions of users have found the utility of posting a status that updates an entire social network. It's a familiar behavior.

It's a natural outgrowth. Of course, this is all speculation until we see the product, but from what I read in the journal it sounds like Google is adding a microblogging to its email and incorporating it into a social news feed.

I'm curious if they'll also make it easy to aggregate other services, like Friendfeed, or to push updates to other platforms, like Posterous. We've already seen recently upgrades to Google Reader that allow subscriptions to any page on the Web and a “Send to” functionality that makes it easy to push out.

One other thing: this may start with your contact in gmail but social network to keep an eye on, in my eyes, is the one you can see surfaced in social search. Take a look here: http://google.com/s2/search/social

Imagine pushing content into that network or scanning updates within it. Will Google move there? Tough to say. But that's my speculation for tonight.

Hmm. I guess I am not that excited about this idea for a few reasons.

1. I'm pretty committed to Twitter at this point. I don't have a gmail account, and I don't plan to get one just to do this. In fact, I'm getting a little sick of having to tap into new applications every time I turn around to stay up to date. I would rather Google and others allow me to use what I already like.

2. I think users really dictate how an application will be used, not developers. Take Twitter, for example, it started as a way to tell people “what you were doing right now.” But users turned it into a way to “edit the Web,” as NYU professor Jay Rosen explains it. Twitter became a way to connect with people and share information — rather than just a “status update” — because users re-appropriated it. I think that's also happening with Four Square. It started as a way to say where you are right now. But my friends and I use it more as a game. We've added specific rooms on our campus to it, and we kind of compete with each other. That wasn't the original idea, but it works, at least for us.

I think Google and newspaper companies, too, need to realize that creating a social platform doesn't mean people will use it or want it. Yes, people want to connect, but, I think, they want to do it on their terms. The applications that will succeed are the ones that tap into users' existing needs and let users appropriate for their own means.

Hmm. I guess I am not that excited about this idea for a few reasons.

1. I'm pretty committed to Twitter at this point. I don't have a gmail account, and I don't plan to get one just to do this. In fact, I'm getting a little sick of having to tap into new applications every time I turn around to stay up to date. I would rather Google and others allow me to use what I already like.

2. I think users really dictate how an application will be used, not developers. Take Twitter, for example, it started as a way to tell people “what you were doing right now.” But users turned it into a way to “edit the Web,” as NYU professor Jay Rosen explains it. Twitter became a way to connect with people and share information — rather than just a “status update” — because users re-appropriated it. I think that's also happening with Four Square. It started as a way to say where you are right now. But my friends and I use it more as a game. We've added specific rooms on our campus to it, and we kind of compete with each other. That wasn't the original idea, but it works, at least for us.

I think Google and newspaper companies, too, need to realize that creating a social platform doesn't mean people will use it or want it. Yes, people want to connect, but, I think, they want to do it on their terms. The applications that will succeed are the ones that tap into users' existing needs and let users appropriate for their own means.

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