Google Buzz: Too Early Or Too Late?


Google Buzz was unveiled last week as Google's answer to Facebook and Twitter, a Gmail-embedded social networking platform that lets users share updates, pictures, videos, links and other content with a group of followers.

Almost immediately, Google Buzz came under fire for privacy issues sparked by its auto-follow feature that automatically starts following contacts and some of its location-based functions, which, if not turned off, would broadcast a user's exact whereabouts. The privacy concerns around Google Buzz are great enough that the FTC has received a complaint concerning the auto-follow feature.

The problem with Google Buzz is two-fold: First, Google Buzz is late to the social networking game, forced to play catch-up with established players like Facebook and Twitter; meanwhile, Google released it too early before working out the kinks through beta testing. Depending on who you ask Google Buzz is either too late or too early.

Lets first look at how Google Buzz is too late. Since its launch in 2004 and its continued massive growth, Facebook has become the social networking poster boy. According to Facebook's stats page it has more than 400 million active users, about 50 percent of whom log on daily. Additionally, roughly 3 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook each month, while more than 5 billion pieces of content like Web links, stories, blog posts and more are shared each week. The number of Twitter users is estimated to be around 75 million, not too shabby for a four-year-old platform.

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Google Buzz is new to the game and has yet to prove itself as greatly different than other platforms that have earned strong followings as users have figured out their ins and outs and how to use them.

However, while Google may be late, Google may have lifted the curtain on Buzz too early. In the week since Google Buzz launched, it has been followed by trouble, from privacy concerns to other odd bugs and glitches. Many people have opted to turn off the opt-in service.

Releasing Buzz without ironing out all of its wrinkles goes against the Google way and shows how eager Google was to come to market with a competitive social networking platform.

According to Google, the search giant tested Buzz internally before releasing it to the general public, without much input from its would-be users. Google is now reacting to what happens with Buzz instead of being proactive and fine tuning it with a soft external launch, where many of the privacy issues would've likely been uncovered. Google also could have used an invitation-only strategy, like the one it has with Google Wave.

Had Google had an extended beta period for Buzz, like with Gmail, which was in beta for roughly five years, the public's reception of the Google Buzz social networking platform may not have been quite as frosty.