I’ve seen more than one person react to Google Buzz with the thought, “oh great, one more thing I have to keep up with.” I don’t intend to defend Google here, and agree with the criticisms against them on privacy, but I think they haven’t sold their case well and would like to talk through what I think Buzz could be.
We believe that the social web works best when it works like the rest of the web - many sites linked together by simple open standards.
-DeWitt Clinton, Google Developer Team
Here’s a sketch of some of the things you might be sharing online:
- Short status updates
- Longer blog posts
- Links to websites
Right now, I could be doing all of those things in Facebook. If I am, then all of my Facebook friends can find them very easily, but people who don’t use Facebook probably can’t. But it’s possible that I might not like Facebook very much, either because I don’t like how it formats things, I don’t find it customizable enough, object to its corporate or privacy policies, etc. So perhaps instead I put my photos on Flickr, videos on YouTube, status updates on Twitter, blog posts on Tumblr, and links on Pinboard. Now in order to follow all of those things you have to check five different sites (or subscribe to five different feeds in an RSS reader like Google Reader). What gives me flexibility (being able to choose where I publish my stuff) causes you complexity (having to track me all over the Web).
I think the idea of Buzz isn’t to give us another new thing to follow, it’s to take all of the different things we now have to follow and put them in once place. Right now this is only truly possible if one does everything inside Facebook. Buzz’s aim is to let you put your stuff wherever you want to-photos on Flickr or Picasa or Facebook-and that your friends can find them even without having to check each of these different sites.
Except that, right now, it only natively plugs into Google-owned properties, and Flickr and Twitter. There’s no built-in Facebook conduit, and adding other sites requires that they know how to make an XFN claim. Google also needs to offer an alternate place to read Buzz that’s not inside Gmail for people who use other email services. That they don’t have this already in place is simply odd.
Google has work to do on the service, but I’m hopeful that it’s not going to create another place I have to track, but instead helpfully reduce them. We’ll see.