Thursday, 18 February 2010

Google Buzz - retrofitting Google Wave?

As social search (using your friends to get trusted recommendations rather than leaving yourself to the mercy of the search engine's algorithms) gains groundswell, Google in particular is ramping up it's efforts to stay part of the game that Facebook is increasingly well positioned to capitalise on (in dwell time if not necessarily directly in revenue terms).

Last week Google announced the acquisition of social recommendation engine Aardvark, swiftly followed by their own attempts to get in on the social networking piece with the launch of Google Buzz. Here's the official intro video explanation:

In essence, Gmail meets Twitter meets Facebook meets GoogleWave.

Retro-fitting some of the neat features of Google Wave ( links auto-embed and I can send direct messages, follow and collapse threads in conversation etc) into the bigger playing field of Gmail makes a lot of sense, particularly given the fact that the GoogleWave beta remains a walled garden and therefore limited in its day to day application, but points deducted for the way Buzz was implemented and executed leaving Google wide open to criticism over privacy issues.

First off, it means there's yet another status that I might have to consider updating of a morning, in addition to the already long enough list of Facebook, Twitter, Yammer (internal Twitter/Intranet), plus dealing with multiple email accounts etc.

Secondly, like lots of people I use my Gmail as my primary email account for everything, personal emails, stuff I sign up for, professional stuff, all sorts, so in my 800+ contacts there's a real smorgasbord of people I interact with for different reasons.  So when Google then decided to just sweep my Gmail account for people to follow/follow me (not that I opted to follow) at that point, I ended up with a pile of people that I really wouldn't chose to share certain things with but even under the "public v private" publishing options were still being considered to be my friends. Or at best I end up with a very general list of followers that if I were going to interact with,  my interactions would have to be very "vanilla" and not targeted around anything specific.

Doh. No!

Barry T, whoever you are, despite my 4 attempts to block you, please go away!  After much furore Google have put their hands up and said "Ooops" and fixed the address book sweeping issue but clearly still not managed to sort out the bug that won't let me block whoever Barry is. Grrrrrrrr.

Grumbling aside, like all good geeks I obviously had to dive in and have a play, and suddenly I found myself caught up in all sorts of Google-Wave like conversation blips amongst people I know and friends of theirs. Interesting but life is busy enough already, and there are lots of other spaces I can already use for that functionality. Mashable have a fairly comprehensive range of views on Google Buzz which is worth perusing.

You can't argue with the critical mass of Gmail account holders across a lot of the world, so from Google's point of view it makes a lot of sense to leverage that scale when Facebook have recently announced that they've topped 400m global members, and implemented (yet another) re-design that makes search more prominent. 

In a world of dispersed digital identity I make very conscious choices about who I choose to interact with, where, under what identity, and why,  and I'm not sure where Google Buzz fits in that landscape right now. Nor have I quite worked out yet,  what interacting via Buzz publically v privately does to my own personal Google profile SEO, nor that of my blog and the other Google owned /provided spaces I interact with, given that they are linked together.  Watch this space.

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