This Buzz for you

Time to join Google’s new sharing site?


In technology, as in medicine, you should never be the first to try anything, but never be last either.

That goes for Buzz, too, the newest social networking site from Google. [rssbreak](“Newest” since Google’s original social networking site, Orkut, preceded the public launch of Facebook in 2004.)

Two weeks after its release, Buzz has raised more questions than it’s answered. Will it beat Twitter to news? Is it better for sharing than Facebook? And, all importantly, should you use it?

There’s lots to criticize about Google Buzz in these early days, but also an equal amount to look forward to.

What’s the Buzz? It’s not instantly clear what Buzz is for. Is it FriendFeed? Is it Twitter? Who are you following, and why? Google hasn’t done a stellar job of informing us.

Not to mention, when you first sign up, it immediately imports contacts from your Gmail list, some of whom you no longer email/instant message/share a bed with, which can be awkward.

Not too buzzy. Compared to the busy thoroughfares of Facebook and Twitter, Buzz is like a quiet cul-de-sac in peaceful beachfront community. It can be a tight-knit group of the people you email, or you can simply choose to mute over-sharers. Despite early stumbles, it actually is great for remaining private, so sharing is not as public as Twitter, where it’s becoming too noisy and critical to get ideas out.

Prickly over privacy. This has been mulled over ad nauseam, but it’s all some people know about Buzz. In its first week, Google faced a backlash from the privacy goblins, and adjusted to said goblins’ whims. Making your contact list public without asking, the original complaint, has been fixed, FYI.

Bumbling Buzzes. If you hook up your Buzz to Twitter or other sites, updates take an embarrassingly long time to crosspost to your Buzz, and all of it dumps all at once. So post something like “Just dialed up a brewski at the pub” at 8 pm and it’s liable to post to Buzz at 6 am, immediately followed by 15 other Twitter updates you’ve posted since then. Annoying.

All hail Gmail. Buzz is not some site you have to add to your bookmarks. It’s right there in your email, between Inbox and Chat. Gmail tends to be open all day, and thus so does Buzz.

Buzz light years ahead. Ease of use – once you figure out the basics – is impressive. And constant innovation is making it even easier. Meanwhile, Twitter hasn’t even figured out hyperlinking.

Go-go-Google mobile. A neat mobile version of the site, developed right here in Ontario, takes location-sharing queues from Foursquare.

Boom or Buzzt? Buzz is still underutilized. By simply adding it to Gmail one day, Google essentially thrust a social networking tool upon many users too shy for sharing. These people don’t know status updates from statutory holidays. They’re resisting Buzz, and it shows.

But Google has converted millions of Gmail users into Buzzlims, and that population will only grow as the service changes into exactly what resisters and late-comers want it to be.

And that’s how Google will win the social networking wars.

No other company can match its dizzying speed of innovation. So while Buzz had a nightmarish start, it’s now hopping into a Delorean and driving into the future.

Is Buzz worthy? It will be. Don’t get left behind.

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