When Google Buzz launched last month, it seemed like Google might finally be on to something, that the search giant might have finally figured out how to do social networking.
… then everyone started using it.
Buzz has been less than successful to say the least. As we mentioned back on Feb. 19th, a class action lawsuit had already been filed against Google over Buzz privacy settings. What is probably even worse for the company is the fact that just about everyone is bemoaning the service and harshly criticizing its usability. You would be hard pressed to find anyone talking positively about the service, although I still stand by my proclamation that it is already more successful than Google Wave simply because people are at least talking about it.
I think the biggest problem is that Buzz isn’t really sure what it is. Is it a social network? Is it a lifestreaming service? Is it just a fancier version of Google Reader? It seems a bit schizophrenic in its implementation, and that has made it uncomfortable to use. Sure the commenting is a bit more streamlined than it is in Reader, but that still means you have to trudge through the muck to find anything worth commenting about.
And then there is the abysmal user interface. Sometimes multiple comments from a user are stacked like pictured to the right here. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of rhyme or reason to when it chooses to do it, and you almost always know what is going to be in those hidden ones isn’t worth the time and trouble to click on them, but yet they beckon out to you, as if they are the Sirens calling the sailors to smash their boats against the rocky coasts of Greece. You know you shouldn’t, but you go and click any way.
There is also an issue with the way some Twitter accounts are pulled in. A friend begged me one evening to turn off my Twitter import because all of my Tweets for the day were coming in in one shot. ReTweets, @ replies, fresh Tweets … all of it was coming at once and he said it was hard to slog his way through. I really didn’t care if people saw those, so I turned it off, but I still wonder why it was doing that.
It feels like someone needs to pull an intervention with the compulsive gambler that is Google. They keep throwing their chips into the poker game that is social networking, sure the next hand will be their savior, and it just never comes. It’s time for Google to step away from the table, and to, as Kenny Rogers’ says in his infamous song “The Gambler”, know when to fold ’em.
Google does a couple of things really well, and that is search and serving ads via Google AdSense, so why do they feel the need to keep trying so many other areas of online media? Concentrate on your core businesses, make them the best you can, and stop churning out half-hearted efforts in other areas. All these failed services continue to do is to tarnish your image, and it seems you would be much better served by pouring those development dollars into the services that brought you to the dance in the fist place.
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