As I write this, Google Buzz is only a few hours old, and already it feels like this new service from the search giant might have some legs to it. Considering the buzz (no pun intended) this new tool has garnered today, it makes you reflect back on how Google Wave has failed to really catch even the imagination of users.
Google Buzz was about the only thing anyone in the tech industry could talk about today, and until it reaches all Gmail users — reportedly by the end of the week — it will probably remain the most talked about subject. From the initial descriptions it sounds like it will be a great tool for the socially engaged, but from feedback I’ve gotten from friends who aren’t that into social media, but have gotten access, their reactions have been trending towards “eh.” Getting your average user to adopt the service will be the biggest hurdle for Google, but with its tight integration with Gmail, it seems to have a possibility of picking up even some casual users.
If you’ve somehow missed the hoopla, the service sounds a lot like FriendFeed, but with a higher probability of use due to it being so easily accessed. Once you gain access to the service, your friends list will be auto-populated from the Google Contacts you interact with the most, and you will be able to import your social activities from services such as Google Reader, Flickr, Picasa, Twitter and so on. The biggest selling point seems to be that you will be notified of new comments on your shared items directly in your Gmail inbox, but instead of having to head to another site, you will be able to post responses right in the mail window; a major move for any social service as it will cut down the work the users have to do to keep a conversation going.
Why does this feel like a success already compared to Google Wave? I admit that considering that Google Wave is still in “preview”, and you need an invite to get into the service, it might seem like comparing apples and oranges. Considering the number of unused Wave invites I have, after offering them to many people, it really isn’t. Wave has been touted as a complete reinvention of e-mail, a “what if e-mail was created now as opposed to decades ago” scenario. The problem was that they over complicated what is a dead-simple system to use.
After only a few days of use, I gave up on Wave, it was annoying, didn’t really add anything to value to me that I couldn’t do in e-mail, I couldn’t get new “Waves” on my BlackBerry and I was already dealing with “Wave” spam. E-mail may be aging as a technology, but it is like that comfortable pair of shoes that you don’t care if you’re holding them together with duct tape, you just have no desire to get rid of them.
Google Buzz may very well flop, only time will tell, but it actually seems to have some uses in this socially connected world of ours. I love the fact I can access from my inbox, something I have open 24/7 any way. I love the way it interacts with mobile devices (well, not my BlackBerry yet, but eventually), and that it lets me connect to people I have pre-existing relationships with instantly. I’ll even admit that may stay restricted in use to people who are in the techsphere, but seeing as Google Wave couldn’t even seem to rope those people in, doesn’t that already make Buzz more successful?