Google Buzz, Don’t Listen to the Naysayers, They’re Wrong
David Pogue of the New York Times is out with a lukewarm review on Google’s latest entry into the socialmedialand Google Buzz. Pogue calls Buzz a “Twitter wannabe,” and chalks the product up to being too confusing for the average user. In the end Pogue says that Buzz isn’t much of a threat to Facebook or Twitter or even FriendFeed, but that it will have it’s own following.
Meanwhile, over at TechCrunch, Mike Arrington takes Google to task for “force feeding” Buzz to Google’s 175 million Gmail users. He says his post is not about the backlash and privacy issues, but those feature prominently in his critique.
And top PR Blogger Steve Rubel says he’s thinking about checking out of Buzz.
I think they’re all wrong and here’s why.
As my friend Robert Scoble has said in the past, you want to go where the ball is going, not where it’s at today.
Once upon a time people used to share photos on sites like Shutterfly, Snapfish and Ofoto. These sites were mostly concerned with printing photos for people and sharing with a very tight group of private friends. Who would have ever thought people would want to *gasp* let the whole world see their private digital photos?
And then Flickr came along and said, you know, why don’t we just make photos public by default. Maybe all these concerns about people not wanting other people to see their photos are overblown. And it worked. And you know what? I’m sure more than one person has accidentally uploaded a photo to Flickr that they wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see. That person probably quickly figured out the problem, made the image private and life goes on.
So while there are likely stories out there about how people accidentally uploaded private oriented photos to Flickr, in the end, using public photos as a default showed that the vast majority of people simply are not that concerned with people seeing photos of their dogs or their house or their friends or heck, even their kids.
Similarly a very small, but vocal, group of individuals are shrieking from the mountain top about the fact that Google Buzz might have allowed people to see who you email alot. Big deal. The story came out quickly. Those privacy zealots could quickly correct this by making their contact list private if they wanted to, while the vast majority of us don’t really care that Buzz lets people know who we follow. Want to know who I follow? It’s right here for the whole world to see, go for it. The whining about these privacy issues (which have now been fixed by the way) is getting old.
But here’s what Google did right. They took a risk in turning this product loose on the world *in the name of innovation.* They said hey let’s do this now and course correct later. The perpetual beta even without the silly meaningless beta label. Google Buzz has bugs and flaws right now. You’d better believe it. And even as I whine about them myself on Buzz, I *love* the fact that they are there. I love the fact that Google is willing to push an exciting, innovative new social network out there warts and all. I love that they are taking risk in the name of innovation.
You know what I love even more than Buzz as a perpetual beta? I love the passion of the people building Buzz. I love that they have a war room where people hunker down and work all weekend long on fixing Buzz. I love that passion. I love that Google Buzz engineers like DeWitt Clinton are actively engaging the user base of Buzz and giving real time feedback and answers to questions. I love that the Google VP of Product Management Bradley Horowitz himself is writing posts like this on Buzz and that he’s actively engaged with the early Buzz community. Todd Jackson, Buzz’s product manager is also very active as well.
And Google is using Buzz to promote open non-proprietary standards. This is hugely positive. Read Dewitt’s post on that here. Hopefully Buzz will be able to put pressure on companies like Twitter and Flickr to support things like PubHubSubbub. Standards that get our data out of the silos that so many companies like Flickr have become.
It is so, so, so early in the social networking game. And Google has passionate engineers and resources that they clearly are dedicating to this product. Buzz will get better and better in the days ahead. Google will use it as a major tool to help refine their more general search algorithm. Smart photographers who have buzz worthy posts and photos would be wise to embrace Buzz and build a presence there now. A lot of the photos that I sell today are found by people on Google. Having your photos prominently indexed in Buzz will help promote them on the web more broadly speaking. And Buzz is doing a really good job at showing our photos off elegantly.
Already all kinds of interesting conversations are popping up all over Buzz. Last week I used Buzz to announce a photowalk a bunch of us went on last night. Earlier today I posted about Obama’s flip flop on the gay marriage issue and look at the engagement that these sorts of posts are seeing.
Buzz will get less complex. Buzz will get better and faster. Bugs will be fixed. The right features will be rolled out. Too many smart passionate people are working on it for this not to happen. It’s the first inning in a long, long game. Buzz will take market share, significant market share from Facebook, and Twitter and Flickr and definitely FriendFeed, which now feels like an old mare that Facebook’s put out to pasture. And this is a good thing.
To those of you that tried Buzz and found it too complex. Stick with it. It’s going to change quickly and dramatically.
I hope Buzz doesn’t lose that spirit of innovation that I see there today. Too often super innovative companies end up complacent and stop innovating. Because if they keep going in the direction that they are, the internet will in the long run be a better place.
If you want to follow me on Buzz you can find me here, I’ll be spending a lot of time on Buzz in the days and weeks ahead.