In the past, I have gone on record as being none too impressed with Google Wave. Since then, I’ve seen chatter about the experimental product from the geniuses behind Gmail dwindle to virtually nothing. Sure, occasionally I see someone claiming that it’s actually been useful for them, but the language used is often so defensive in such descriptions that you know even the proponents realize which way the wind is blowing.
Google, too, seems not to need a weather vane to tell it what’s up with its last major new product. Which is why, in my opinion, the search giant introduced Google Buzz yesterday: a Gmail-integrated product which, at least superficially, resembles Wave. Buzz is like Wave, but better, since people are already actually using it.
Top among my laundry list of complaints regarding Google Wave was how it seemed like a walled garden, cut off from other elements of the social web, most notably Gmail itself. Sure, there were a variety of bots and hacks to get those things into Wave, but why make things needlessly complicated, especially with regards to Google’s existing tools? It just seemed designed to sour entry-level and casual users against it.
Google seems to have taken note of that bitterness, and made Buzz with exactly the opposite in mind. It plugs into your existing social networks quickly and easily, but I can already see that people will end up using it instead of, rather than in concert with, sites like Twitter. Avid FriendFeed users like Robert Scoble have quickly thrown their considerable support behind Buzz, possibly because the Google product is fairly reminiscent of that Facebook-acquired networking site.
At a fundamental level, Google Buzz is already much more functional than Wave, if only because it talks to things outside of itself easily and with a minimum of hassle. Plus it lives in your Gmail, which is where a lot of online workers spend much of their day anyway. And unlike Twitter, it supports threaded conversations, and a variety of different methods of interaction and sharing. It’s like Facebook without the annoying apps, or like Twitter with all the good bits of Facebook thrown in.
From a web working perspective, I can already see how it would be better for interviewing, for surveying public opinion, and for conducting meaningful research. As long as people get behind it, it will succeed, and since they already show good signs of doing so, I think this is one horse you can safely bet on.
Do you think Buzz is better than Wave? Do you ever see yourself using it more than Twitter or Facebook in the future?