I’ve finally been granted access to Google Buzz today, and after playing around with it for an hour or so, I have to say I really don’t like it. It’s not all bad, but it’s bad enough that unless Google makes some significant changes I’m fairly sure I’ll be removing it in the near future.
- It looks a lot like Friendfeed. I’m very familiar with Friendfeed. This is comforting.
- You can edit your updates. This is always welcome.
- The comment system, again like Friendfeed, is nice.
- That’s it.
Here’s where it gets problematic.
- When you first activate Buzz, it auto-follows people on your behalf, based on those you most email and chat with. The problem is it then proudly displays this information on your public Google profile. The privacy and security implications here are huge. How many times do we have to say it? Opt-out is a fail. Couldn’t Google have just said, “Hey, you know these people. Do you want to follow them?”
- Buzz allows you to connect other sites to your feed. That’s fine, but not for me. So I didn’t connect anything. The problem is, it doesn’t then allow you to opt out of seeing these same connections from everybody else. So I’m forced to see huge updates from other folk’s Google Reader favourites, and that kind of thing, often in blocks of multiples. I hate that. On Twitter or Facebook, if I’m not interested in content, I simply do not click on the link. On Buzz, I have no choice. It’s there, right in front of me, getting in the way of everything else that I do want to read.
- As an example, Darren Rowse is a great guy, but who wants to see this as one update in a feed? To stop this, I would need to unfollow Darren. What sort of option is that?
- Seeing Buzz updates in your inbox is really, really annoying. Luckily, you can easily filter this out. But why make it the default? Again, opt-in, not opt-out.
- It’s really, really slow.
- Seeing the exact same updates from my Twitter and Facebook friends on Buzz blows. That’s not Google’s fault per se, but it’s another reason why I don’t need to look in there.
- To get people to connect with me, I really need to push them towards my Google profile, which is http://www.google.com/profiles/sheabennett. At 42 characters, that’s both ugly and ridiculously long.
- I have no control over my username. Because Buzz functions completely off of your Google profile, I have to be Shea Bennett. That’s fine – I am Shea Bennett – but if would have been nice if I could have been Sheamus. And yes, I could set up a new email and start a new Google profile, but who is going to bother to do that? (Oh right – anonymous.)
- Each time a given Buzz gets a new comment, it moves to the top of your feed. If you’re following a high-profile user, or a group of them, that’s pretty much all you’re going to see. I’ve had Robert Scoble at the top of my page for half an hour now. I like Scoble, but not that much. Good luck keeping up with your friends who Buzz on a very occasional basis.
- The Find People feature works quite well, but the only option you get when looking for somebody is to add them. You can’t preview their Buzz feed, at least not conveniently. You have to open up a new tab and visit their Google profile. Real handy.
This is also the first time I’ve noticed how few of my friends actually use Gmail. I love Gmail, and recommend it to everybody, but people are often quite set in their ways, and prefer to stay with Hotmail or Yahoo, irrespective of the lack of features. Looking at my address book, I’m guessing probably less than 20% of my friends have a Gmail address, or even a Google account, for that matter. Yeah, it’s mad, but it also means Buzz is already limiting my network.
I’m also slightly concerned at the impact Buzz is going to make on Gmail itself. The world already seems to shut down when Gmail falls over, and I’d hate to think that all the huge drain that Buzz is making on the Gmail servers is going to increase those periods of downtime.
My gut feeling? Unless they make some major changes and improvements to Buzz, and soon, and that includes addressing those privacy issues, it’s never going to be a threat to Twitter or Facebook. It’s just another aggregator. And a bad one, at that.
Google’s been really sloppy of late, and Buzz is no exception. It’s disappointing, and unfortunately all too familiar. Indeed, it already feels like the new Google Wave. And we know how well the masses embraced that.
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