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Opinion: Google overpromises, underdelivers with Buzz

By Juan Carlos Perez
February 10, 2010 02:22 PM ET

IDG News Service - Google prides itself on releasing products early and improving on them quickly, but this philosophy sometimes does a disservice to the company and to its users, as illustrated by this week's ballyhooed release of Buzz in Gmail.

At a press conference in which even Google co-founder Sergey Brin participated, company officials did a great job of explaining how people are struggling with an excess of social media information.

Then they said they had developed a product -- Buzz -- that would solve this problem. Except, it doesn't.

The first obvious, glaring reason why Buzz can't fulfill its promise is that it operates as if Facebook didn't exist. Buzz has zero integration with Facebook. Buzz does nothing to help people sort through the torrent of information flowing into their Facebook feeds.

With more than 400 million members worldwide and counting, Facebook is the social networking site most people are using for personal interactions, and Buzz can't help them with it.

That gap alone should have given Google executives pause for reflection when deciding to launch Buzz without support for Facebook. At the very least, they should have been much more candid about this reality. But from Brin on down, the executives at hand yesterday seemed physically unable to even utter the "F" word.

So if Buzz can't help with Facebook, maybe it can be useful for Twitter users, right? Well, maybe or maybe not.

You see, I can't automatically import my Twitter contacts into Buzz, so Buzz doesn't know who I'm following on Twitter. If my Twitter stream flows in parallel to Buzz, and Buzz can't see it, it can't apply its relevance algorithms to it and help me manage it.

In the best-case scenario, Buzz will automatically set up a social graph based on my Gmail usage, and those contacts will link up their Twitter feeds to Buzz. However, how likely is it that all my Twitter contacts will end up automatically on my Buzz contacts?

It seems likely that you'll have to manually search in Buzz for many of the people you follow on Twitter and add them to your Buzz contacts -- a thankless task, to say the least.

And only if they have linked their Twitter accounts to Buzz will their "tweets" would appear in my Buzz stream.

This leads me to another problem with Google's claim that Buzz will help you channel your social media stream: Google's assumption that your Gmail account contains your underlying social graph, based on the Gmail contacts you interact with most. This may be true for some people, but not for everybody. In my case, although I have had a Gmail account for years, I don't use it that much. The e-mail account that has anything resembling an underlying social graph for me is my work account.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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