Have you heard the buzz? Google Buzz, that is.
Over the past five years, we saw Gmail emerge as just another e-mail platform. Later, it grew while adding chat and video chat features. As of Feb. 9, Gmail took a big step forward by adding a new social media feature called Google Buzz.
What is Google Buzz?
Google Buzz is a new social platform that allows users to manage and participate in social activities from their Gmail account. If you've used Friendfeed, which is now part of Facebook, it's similar.
You can choose to add this feature to Gmail, which lets you share photos and video. This is done with its sister applications Picasa and YouTube.
You can also update your status or post a comment like you would on Facebook and Twitter. However, unlike Twitter, you have more than 140 characters to say what's on your mind. Here's a quick two minute video preview.
Google Buzz gives you the option to add Gmail contacts to your friends list. This was done automatically when it first launched, but Google quickly changed this setting. You can set up private groups for family and close friends to share information, or have a public group to communicate to everyone. That way you can decide how your information gets distributed.
There's also a recommendation feature to add friend-of-friend content into your stream. This system will learn what you like and don't like over time with your direct feedback. Additionally, Google Buzz integrates updates to your inbox rather than sending you an e-mail when there are notices, like Facebook does.
If you have a mobile phone, specifically the iPhone and Android, and would like to use Google Buzz, then you're in luck. You can have access to your followers and update your status while on the go. Additionally, you can set up your location so you can find other Buzz users around you and be found.
Google Buzz and Privacy Issues
One of the big criticisms about Buzz has been the privacy issue. Buzz initially auto-followed your e-mailed friends, which allowed people to learn about your e-mail habits and behavior.
Also, because it's linked to Gmail, people can find out what your e-mail address is. As a result of this and other issues, Google quickly turned around an update to address these concerns, the biggest of which was to turn auto-follow into auto-suggest.
The basic theme of this first update was to change things that were "automatic" to "you decide." Buzz automatically connected to users' public Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader shared items automatically. Now you can decide whether to share.
The final change is that Google built in the ability to delete or disable Google Buzz completely if you decide you don't like the experience but still want to continue as a Gmail user.
Buzz and Beyond
Even with the privacy issues that Google is experiencing, Google Buzz will likely grow and become rapidly adopted. One reason is because Gmail already has a large user base and it's easy for users to just click that icon to add Buzz features into Gmail for a quick setup.
Social media tool vendors will be quick to start tracking Google Buzz. Radian 6 has already made this announcement.
Have you started using Google Buzz? If so, comment below and tell us what you think. How will this affect your use of Facebook and Twitter?
Editor's note: We are both thrilled and a little saddened to announce that this will be the last article in this column for Search Engine Watch as Ron Jones will be writing for ClickZ from the beginning of March 2010. Please give him a great send off via the comments here and head over to ClickZ to give him a warm welcome! From everyone on the team here, we'd like to say a big THANK YOU to Ron for his outstanding contributions to SEW.