Google Buzz: Introducing Google's New Social Media Weapon

author/source: Mark Ramskill

Google Buzz: Introducing Google's New Social Media Weapon

For those of you that haven't yet heard, Google yesterday announced its latest push into the social media arena, Google Buzz.

If you're one of the chosen few, you'll today find a link for Google Buzz within your Gmail account. The remainder of us will get access within the next week or so.

My take, is think of Buzz as a mashup of Twitter and elements of webmail and Google Wave.

Confused? Let me flesh out Google Buzz for you.

There are essentially four key features that define Buzz:

- Feature 1: Auto-following

- Feature 2: A rich, fast sharing experience

- Feature 3: Public and private sharing

- Feature 4: Inbox integration

If you have Google Buzz enabled in Gmail you’ll be greeted with a splash page introducing the application.

Within your usual Gmail interface you'll then find a tab right under your inbox, labeled simply "Buzz".

So What Can Buzz Do?

Buzz alllows you to read aggregated links and content from around the web, via Picasa, Twitter, Flickr and other sites.

You can link to photos from sites such as Picasa or Flickr quickly and easily, with the ability to preview photos before you add them in pretty much full-screen.

You can post in public or private mode, for different posts. You can also post updates to specific contact groups.

Google makes sure you don’t miss comments, by sending you an email letting you know about updates. The email will show you the Buzz you’ve created as well as all of the comments and images associated with it.

Google Buzz supports @replies, just like Twitter does. If you @reply to a contact, it will send a Buzz to their inbox.

Buzz also has a "recommended" feature. This show buzzes from people you don't follow if your friends have commented or shared them. You can switch this feature on or off.

Is Google Buzz Available on Mobile?

Google buzz is accessible via mobile in three different ways: from Google Mobile’s website, from (for Android and iPhone), and from Google Mobile Maps.

Buzz uses voice recognition and posts voice-dictated buzz's in real-time. You can also geotag your buzz posts, showing the location you are buzzing from.

In the Buzz mobile interface, you can click "nearby" and see what people are saying in your locality (these appear as conversation bubbles). Twitter apps such as Tweetie do this and have been very positively received.

All in all, some great features, which I can't wait to play around with. If Google Buzz is anywhere near as addicitive as Twitter or Facebook i'm in trouble!

So is Google Buzz 'the Next Big Thing'?

This depends. When Google unveiled Buzz yesterday, it announced that the app will allow you to share your Twitter updates with your Buzz followers, as well as import feeds from Flickr, Picasa, Blogger and YouTube. While this is great news, for Buzz to be truly useful it needs to cover all bases and do the same with Facebook status updates. But, would Facebook allow this?

On the output side of the coin, there's also no ability to send out a tweet or Facebook update from within Buzz. If this functionality existed, i'd probably use Buzz and nothing else for updating.

As things stand I believe Google may struggle to build a userbase.

Let's look at the numbers. Facebook, with a whopping 400m active users (50% of which use Facebook every day) is the world’s largest social network. Twitter on the other hand has only 18 million or so users.

Gmail, meanwhile had around 36 million users as of last year, clearly making Facebook the 'queen bee'.

Oh, and while Google is attempting to challenge Facebook with Buzz, Facebook is planning a move into Google's Gmail terroritory.'Project Titan', their challenge to Gmail, involves a fully featured webmail service, tightly integrated with other Facebook functionality.

This could well turn into a battle to the death . . .

In Summary

Facebook now rules the social web so completely that it’s difficult to imagine users jumping ship en mass to a new, competing service, unless that service offered some game-changing new features that Facebook doesn't have — Buzz, as it stands, doesn’t have these.

It'll be interesting to see how things pan out. Once thing's for sure - we, the consumer, can only win, as ever more useful functionality is continually rolled out to tickle us, and coax us away.