Monday, March 29, 2010

Why Buzz is Dying and What Google Should Do

While there are many people still using Google Buzz, an article on Tech Crunch shows that the millions of users on Gmail simply have not caught on. Of course, we cannot blame the users' for this. Who needs yet another distraction when you have Facebook, Twitter, and FourSquare all doing pretty much the same thing. Even Google Reader has shown to be more useful for some people than Buzz. Now you might say: well, Buzz and Reader are meant for two completely different things, why compare them? The answer to that is simple: the reason Buzz is doing so badly is because you can compare them. And, quite frankly, Google better shape up its social networking services or they will have no chance at taking on Facebook.

The first mistake Google made with Buzz is actually one of their most well-known features: Gmail integration. While I applaud the fact that Gmail users can now use another one of Google's services with just one click, and while I definitely appreciate the integration, a social networking service does not go over well unless it has its own portal. Integration is good, and helpful, but not without a separate landing page. Because users are not going to go through the trouble of signing up for a Google account just so they can access something similar to FriendFeed, but worse. Buzz should have its own page, end of story.

The next problem Google made with Buzz is not getting rid of the noise. This is a problem everybody has seemed to have been dealing with lately, on all platforms. Steve Hodson had an OMG moment when Louis Gray realized his blog posts being in twelve places at once can get annoying for users.  As I said in the first paragraph, the primary reason Buzz is failing is that it can be compared with Google Reader. People route their Google Reader shared items directly to Buzz, at which point the entire post shows up in my feed. After that, a hundred people comment on it, and then the comments are practically larger than the post itself! Google does, in fact, hide comments when it gets too large, but that's only if you have marked the comments as read. Enter the Buzz stream for the first time in a few hours, and every single comment will be iterated over your screen.

The final mistake Google made with Buzz was not making anything worthwhile. What I mean by this is that all Buzz is right now is a copy of FriendFeed (did I say that already?). People have been blogging with claims that Buzz is Google's competition against Facebook and Twitter. Not a chance. Primarily because Facebook and Twitter have something Buzz does not: features. Facebook is an entire social networking platform, with walls (not the walled garden kind of walls, but actual profile walls), groups, fan pages, games, and more. Twitter catches users with its mobile capabilities; you do not need to be tied to a computer to use Twitter. Buzz has neither of these: it cannot be used anywhere other than in Gmail, and the only thing you can do is comment on other people's activity. In fact, the reason there is noise on Buzz in the first place is because all it is useful for is to act as a conversation board for shared items in somebody's Google Reader feed.

Just to sum up everything up here: there are few things Google needs to do fast if they want to rescue Buzz from ultimate failure. Give Buzz its own page, but keep the Gmail integration as well. Give more features to Buzz, and make it more like Orkut, without copying. Do not allow people to stream their Google Reader shared items into the service. And finally, make it easier for people to opt-in, because having Gmail as your only Buzz interface will not get you any new users.


  1. On the whoe I would agree with Tyler except with the last bit about removing the Shared Items. Yes I can see how it can be a pain (I even said so on Buzz) but at this point the it is only because of the great writers that I have found through the integration of Shared Items that even keeps me there at this point.

  2. Buzz is unsaveable.
    Simple straightforward and to the point.

  3. Yeah, I agree with you Steve, but the thing is: Shared Items should not be the only reason you have to stay on Buzz. Removing Shared Items now would be disastrous, not that the service has already hit rock bottom already.