As you all know by now, Google unveiled its latest attempt at social networking this week, called Google Buzz. The first reaction was that it was Twitter meets GMail and some folks joked and called it Glitter. Sure it got 9 million posts in the first two days, however, it is doomed to fail.
Buzz is a response to Twitter and to some degree Facebook. In the past if news happened, you went to Google to see what was up. Nowadays, you go to Twitter first to get the real time news and see what people are saying. You only go to Google for what I call the encyclopedia search, like “who was in that movie?” or “what year was xyz” or “what is the name of that blah blah?” All real time stuff you go to Twitter, like “what is going on at the TED conference this weekend?” As the saying goes, Twitter starts arguments, Google ends them. Twitter and social networking (when you can ask your network a question instead of Googling it) are a threat to Google’s core business model: owning search and the ad revenue around it. Buzz is an attempt to mitigate that by creating the platform for people to go to for real time search and social networking.
The problem with Buzz is that it brings nothing new to the table, except maybe GMail integration, but if you use Facebook you can pretty much replicate that. We already are on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, so who needs Buzz? Buzz is already too far behind and does not have any break out features, so it is not going anywhere anytime soon. Google is Google and will get some traction just because of its strong brand: just look at the PR around the Nexus One and Android, however, those are great products. Buzz is (at this stage) just a copy cat of what is already out there. I don’t see the platform growing into something better anytime soon either.
At Google, its founders still have a strong say in everything the company does. That is not a problem, look at how successful Google has been; look at Steve Jobs’ hold over Apple and that seems to be working out. But at Google, Larry and Sergey get a lot of things, however they don’t “get” social networking. Google has tried and failed with social networking and community in the past and most visibly ran Orkut into the ground and acquired YouTube since GoogleVideo failed. Google will need to bring in someone big from the social networking community to own Buzz. Since Google has deep pockets, I am sure they can. My advice to Google is to do this pronto and then rethink what Buzz will do.
Google should reposition Buzz to be a master consumer and publisher: the place you go to publish and consume all of your social media content. This way they will get all the eyeballs and then hence, all the ad revenue. What would be great is if Google Buzz talked to all the APIs of all the social networking sites and used OpenID and created one social networking portal for you. You can post your photos, blogs, status updates and consume content from all of your contacts (“friends”) on all the social media sites without having to sign up for them all (or join them all). I constantly get invites to fringe social networking sites from friends overseas and refuse to join some of them, but I am missing out on that content and connecting with those friends. Google Buzz can solve that problem, I can consume that content without joining.
Google will also have to work on a breakout feature to get all the people to visit Buzz, maybe an image search: I can upload my photo and then search across all the social networks for image recognition of myself. Throw on top of this portal some awesome search and categorization and filtering that made GMail so successful and you have a great platform. Then Google Buzz could be the only social networking site you had to visit. Today I have to check my RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Gmail, and like 10 other sites I am a member of. Sure I have some email integration and RSS readers, but it is not a true one stop shop. Google Buzz can do that. If not, they are doomed to fail.