Google Buzz buzzkill

It's easy to see why Google built Buzz. Google wants to compete with Twitter and Facebook. What's difficult to figure out is why people will want to use Google Buzz, when they can already use Twitter, Facebook, and a variety of other services to do the same thing. I hate to be a buzzkill, but I think Google Buzz will join the heap of failed Google services.

Google launched Buzz Tuesday as an add-on for Gmail. It's designed to allow users to share photos, videos, links, and status updates with their friends, as well as discuss shared content. It's very similar to the News Feed in Facebook in that regard. It's also similar to FriendFeed, a social sharing service acquired by Facebook last year with a small, but devoted following.

And that's Google Buzz's problem right there. It's similar to too many services already on the market. Google Buzz looks like a "me-too" product. I don't think Google Buzz will get much buzz.

People already have a plethora of ways to share content with their friends: Facebook and Twitter are two popular choices. Blogging is another. E-mailing text and images to friends is still very popular. I'm not seeing how Buzz will add to those choices.

One of Buzz's major weapons is that it's integrated with Gmail. So you don't have to manually find your friends on Buzz; Buzz knows who you e-mail the most, and automatically adds those people to your friends list. However, that only works if you're already using Gmail as your primary mail interface. Gmail has 176 million users, according to the Associated Press, but how many of those are using Gmail as their primary e-mail? Moreover, Facebook has more than double Gmail's installed base, with 400 million users, according to a post on Silicon Valley Insider (headline: "The Truth About Google Buzz: It's Late, Boring, And Lame" -- ouch!). I bet every Gmail users has a Facebook account, and the ones most likely to use Buzz are already using Facebook. Why would they switch?

Moreover, Gmail integration could prove to be a liability. Gmail is usually used for personal mail, but people often use their personal e-mail to communicate with co-workers. Some content is OK to share with friends and family, but not co-workers. Likewise, work-related content might simply bore your friends and family. Like the Ghostbusters said: Don't cross the streams.

Google has a lousy record convincing people to use its social media products. Most famously, Orkut failed to take off outside of Brazil, and Google's other social media efforts also crashed in the marketplace: Dodgeball, Jaiku, and OpenSocial, to name three. Sadly, Buzz is likely to be more of the same.

Disclaimer: I haven't tried Google Buzz, or even seen a lengthy demo, although I've read a lot about it and watched the two-minute demo video on the Google Buzz home page. My track record for predicting social media success is mixed. On the plus side: I was an early adopter of Twitter, where I'm @MitchWagner. I was moderately early into Facebook. I was extremely early into blogs; I was reading them avidly back when you could read all of them every day.

On the other hand, I also have a track record of embracing social media that fail in the marketplace. I was an early and enthusiastic FriendFeed user for a while. I thought RSS was going to be huge. I'm still a devoted user of Google Reader. And I'm also still a devoted user of Second Life. So I'm not always right when predicting the success of social media.

But I do think I'm right this time: Google Buzz will bomb.

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