What’s the Buzz?

Yesterday Google unveiled “Google Buzz.”  A simple way to describe it is that Buzz seems to be the illegitimate child of Facebook and Twitter – squatting in your gmail account.  That’s the the simple way to explain it, but it also gives the wrong impression of what Buzz might just be able to do.  Buzz is attempting to take social networking (Facebook), micro-blogging (Twitter), and location based (four-square or loopt) and wrap it into a simple package.  I’m not sure if they can pull it off, but it’s certainly ambitious.

The main Buzz window
The HTML 5 mobile Buzz app

I didn’t have access to Buzz in my regular gmail account until late this morning, and if that had been my first encounter with Buzz I’d have to echo my friend Michael’s first buzz update, “i’m sorry, but this won’t replace FB.”  Buzz in gmail is easy to use and update, but it does seem to be nothing more than the aforementioned illicit child of facebook and twitter.  Buzz’s potential simply doesn’t show up there.  On the mobile, however, the potential suddenly appears by the ability to access location-based information.  I find this fascinating.  Google Buzz manages to travel on the path that Twitter paved, but instead of utilizing text messages they’ve created a rich web-app that harnesses HTML 5.  An app that seems to give a better experience than it’s desktop based cousin! Let me show you why I say this.  On the right is the main buzz app window when you access I access it on my iPhone.  It’s very straight forward –  see Buzz updates from people I have asked to follow, along with comments on those updates (which is very “Facebook like”).  Notice, however, the “nearby” button at the top of the screen.  Here’s what it looks like when you select it.

The window when Buzz is set to see what's nearby
The Nearby window in Google Buzz

Now I have a list of local Buzz updates, which gives me their GPS based location.  I don’t like that aspect of Buzz, I don’t need to know a stranger’s home address, nor do I want strangers to know mine there has to be a way to anonymize this for me to use Buzz with location data.  If I want to display my current location I should be able to do that, as many twitter clients allow you to do, but having that set to default is something I don’t like one bit.  That is a major drawback for me, but at the same time I see some wonderful potential in the “nearby” feature as well.  Next to “Buzz Map” is a listing of businesses and organizations that are near to the current location of the mobile.  When it’s activated this is what comes up in my area.

The Local Buzz map for iPhone
Nearby locations as discovered by Google Buzz

Buzz pulls information from Google maps and displays it in a list format.  When you click on any of the listings you’re taken to a page where you can “Buzz” about that organization.  That page is shown below.

Buzz Listing
The first Buzz listing for a local organization

If you activate the “more info” link, you’ll be taken to the listing for that organization as found on Google Maps, like so.

Local listing as shown in Google Buzz
Local listing as shown in Google Buzz

That’s just plain awesome.  The potential for this, if you are part of an organization (say, the pastor of a Church like I am), Google buzz can show people nearby what’s going on in that community and how people are responding to it.  If you set up your organization’s listing in the Google Local Business Center (which I highly recommend) people will see a picture of the organization’s location and any updates that you’ve attached to your entry.  This is the portion of Buzz that most interests me, the merger loopt into their Facebook/Twitter lovechild.  As a way of getting “buzz” going about events and gatherings – this might be a huge win.

2 Comments

  1. ARJWright says:

    Nice post; and I nearly agree. Thing is, I had something like this with the Google-purchased Jaiku solution a few years ago. It was a bit cleaner, and didn’t rely on email (one area where Google actually played this one smartly). It adds nothing for me personally at this point – if other email/IM accounts were plugged into this it would make some more sense. If I didn’t have both personal and branded account activity thru Google, it ould also be easier to manage.

    A solution in search of a problem IMO; Wave answered this problem better – though not completly – and is a step ahead in approach.

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