Google Buzz(ed?) – new Gmail feature now better safeguards privacy

By: Tim Teatro

April 6, 2010

Google-Buzz-logoWhen Google publicly launched Buzz back in February, it kicked up quite a bit of dust. The Buzz service, originally launched as part of Gmail, began making users private contact lists into public Buzz followings. This led to Google being sued over privacy issues.

Usually, Google is known for their public betas, but for some reason, Google only tested Buzz internally, where this sort of issue isn’t an issue! This just burns a little hotter given the controversy generated by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who has said: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

I doubt that this view represents the views of  the company as a whole. But Schmidt makes me feel  a little scared.

Anyway, we’ve let the fires die down before talking about it, and now we’ll ask: what’s the Buzz now? Well, Google was quick to fix the privacy problems and apologized. (Personally, I think the whole matter was handled very well.) But there were still lingering issues that affected the usability of the service. Most of the complaints were centered around controlling the volume of the information stream. Those that have been most note worthy include:

  • Integration with Gmail is too tight: people don’t want their microblogging world in their in-boxes.
  • No way to collapse threads, leading to TMI on the screen.
  • No integration with other services (Twitter, Facebook, etc)

In the days since, Google has delivered some solutions to these problems.

Most importantly, I can now set a clean line between Buzz and Gmail. I can completely disable, or selectively allow certain Buzz events to appear in my Gmail inbox, or I can completely bifurcate the two services.

Buzzes that receive long lists of comments are now behind a link, ’47 more comments’ for example. This cuts down on the clutter. But it seems that it only does this for Buzzes that I’ve seen before, and I do find that my buzz list is uncomfortably long. It should truncate ALL posts, new or old.

In terms of integration with other microblogging sites, Google can connect to several other services including Twitter. I’d imagine that they’re adding more, but most people would complain that Facebook still isn’t part of the list.

I also think that Buzz should be more restrictive with their post sizes. One-hundred and forty characters (the current standard for Twitter and Identica) is plenty for a microblog. I’m still fine if we bump it up to 500 even, but don’t let people slam their posts full of images!

After using Buzz for a few days, I have to say, I like it but I have some issues; the main one being that it’s a little dead. There are some really active users, but I apparently don’t know many of them. However, at the same time as I started using Buzz, I also made Twitter and accounts. I did notice that when I Buzzed, people in my address book would respond and give me some chatter to keep things interesting. When I Tweeted, nobody was listening because I had no followers (I’m timtro on Twitter btw). And Identica (Canada’s popular microblogging service) beat them both out. When I posted with Identica, strangers watching the public stream responded to my posts. If I said interesting things, I got followers. Identica kicks butt! (I’m timtro on Identica too.)

I’d like quickly mention that some people have accused Google of trying to shut down Twitter and Facebook. I don’t think these people really understand Google much at all. Google is injecting itself into the market to stimulate it, not to dominate it. Twitter and Facebook rake in cash for Google, because it encourages people to use the internet. The more people use the internet, the more money Google makes.

I’d like to encourage readers to post their experiences. Do you use Buzz? What do you think of it? Are there any other worthy microblogging sites that you’d like to mention?

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  1. […] Google Buzz(ed?) – new Gmail feature now better safeguards privacy April 6, 2010 […]

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