26 Comments

Summary:

Google says that it is “very, very sorry” for the way it launched Google Buzz and the features that some felt intruded on their privacy and revealed personal data. The company has made several substantial changes in response to complaints, and says more are coming soon.

Google, after scrambling to alter certain features and add new settings to Buzz several times since its launch a week ago, has admitted that it rushed the service out the door. However, the search giant says it’s working hard to adapt to what users want and has set up a “war room” dedicated to responding as quickly as possible. The company told the BBC that while most Google services go through some testing with a small group of beta users, Buzz was released into the wild without this level of testing. Buzz product manager Todd Jackson admitted that many users of Buzz were “rightfully upset” and said Google was “very, very sorry.” He added that: “We know we need to improve things.”

Within hours of the Buzz launch, users were complaining about a number of features (or flaws) in the service, including the fact that their Gmail and GTalk contacts were publicly revealed for everyone to see, and that the setting for making that public or private was enabled by default and/or difficult to find. Users also said blocking followers wasn’t as easy as it should have been, that they couldn’t unfollow someone if they didn’t have a Google profile, and that it wasn’t clear who would be shown in their list of followers.

Many of Google’s new products and services first undergo testing with what the company calls its Trusted Testers program, in which a small group of users — primarily friends and family members of Google employees — get early access to the service and provide feedback before it’s rolled out in open beta. This was not the case with Google Buzz, the company told the BBC, although it had been used for some time internally by Google employees themselves. “Of course, getting feedback from 20,000 Googlers isn’t quite the same as letting Gmail users play with Buzz in the wild,” Jackson said.

According to both the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, the company has set up a “war room” at Google headquarters that monitors what users are saying about Buzz, and that the company plans to make further changes to the service in response to that feedback. The most recent changes to the service — in which Google switched from an auto-follow approach, where users found themselves following Gmail and GTalk contacts automatically, to a “suggested follow” approach — was made on Saturday by a group of Google engineers and senior executives including VP Brad Horowitz and senior engineering VP Jeff Huber. The changes are being rolled out this week.

While the company has been applauded by many for its rapid response to user complaints and the addition of new features, that doesn’t seem to have placated some privacy advocates, who say Google’s approach was wrong from the beginning. According to the LA Times, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is planning to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over Buzz. “”The bottom line is that self-regulation is not working,” center director Marc Rotenberg told the newspaper. “Google pushes the envelope, people scream and they dial back the service until the screaming subsides.”

Post photo courtesy of Flickr user So Gosehn

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  1. not even Google is immune from “too big to fail”.

  2. Google got it backwards, perhaps. <a href=http://rarepattern.com/nodes/2010/needed-peer-peer-twitter-or-did-google-get-it-backwards”>It’s Buzz, not Wave, that should have been developed as a protocol. Imagine peer-to-peer Buzz. I feel it’s the obvious next step beyond Twitter’s single point of failure.

  3. Shamelessly take your privacy back with explicitly authorized encrypted messaging for facebook, email and twitter http://VitalLock.com/ -Bob Stewart, Founder VitalLock – The Privacy Company.

    1. I get the “shamelessly” part, Bob, but…

  4. Google Apologizes for GBuzz… – Tech Blitz Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    [...] Tech Blitz on Feb.16, 2010, under All Technology Google: We Screwed Up with Buzz, Stay Tuned – By: Matthew [...]

  5. Google seems to be like a Vulcan, reduce the problem to a value and it looks good on paper, must be right.

    While we consumers are human, we augment data with context. Like Kirk we sometimes see the bigger picture, which totally eludes Google.

    The math to simulate both problem solving skills is quite different. Google is only good at one.

    Btw, with all these ad-hoc fast fixing. What is the probability of introducing bugs?

  6. Leaving behind logic and rationality, I want Buzz to fail.

    I love twitter. I like facebook. I have always hated friendfeed.
    I love google for the search and email service. They are #awesome at it. I love the simplicity.
    Buzz is loud and distracting. If there wasn’t an option to turn off Buzz, it would have been the ‘gmail killer’ (at least for me).
    There are times when even the mightiest is scared. I don’t think there was any need for Google to come up with Buzz. It is just a reaction, guess they felt threatened. Google needs to learn that they don’t have to put their nose into everything. Well, it’s good for everybody that there are more players providing a certain service but I just don’t like this attitude of I-Want-To-Be-Everywhere. It scares me, it makes me sick.

    If google is really interested into social networking, I beg, please have a look at Orkut. I will not use expletives here!

    Anyway, wishing Buzz the same fate as Wave. :)

    1. @dude Same feeling here too. This is just google’s greed to capture market in Social Media too. Possibly they feel scared of growing clout of twitter/Facebook

      My 2 Cents

  7. I think Google screwed up the launch on purpose. More publicity = more awareness that it exists.

  8. This sounds very silly. How can a company like google – with supposedly the best talent in the world – can do this. Even the smallest companies test their products out before letting them out. I guess google really did all this under the ‘facebook’ pressure. They had to get something out. And i guess they got it wrong this time around.

  9. Phil Hendrix, Ph.D. Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    The Benefits of Rapid Prototyping, Testing, and Calibration:
    While I applaud Google for its extraordinary focus on innovation and believe that “release beta, fix later” can speed innovation, the approach has drawbacks, particularly when testing is limited to a small, unrepresentative group of users (e.g., in the case of Buzz, Google employees). The irony is that there are disciplined approaches to designing, testing and refining new products – even products that customers have never experienced – that avoid these problems without slowing development. We outline some of these approaches in “Estimating Market Potential for New-to-Market Products at http://bit.ly/aJQ49H .
    Dr. Phil Hendrix, immr

  10. Google: We Screwed Up With Buzz, Stay Tuned – GigaOM | NoiseBlogger – A Dynamic, Upto Date, Revolutionary News Blog Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    [...] Visit link: Google: We Screwed Up With Buzz, Stay Tuned – GigaOM [...]

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