Blog Post

Google Buzz and Email: Strength or Weakness?

Google (s goog) Buzz, in case you hadn’t noticed, has been getting lots of…well, buzz since being unveiled yesterday. Depending on your perspective, it’s either a huge Facebook-Twitter-MySpace-Yelp-Foursquare killer, or it’s a giant disappointment and therefore an epic fail (our own Liz Gannes thinks it’s somewhere in between). Like many of the new things released by companies such as Google and Apple (s aapl), it seems to function like a Rorschach test for the geek crowd, a blank sheet upon which everyone’s highest hopes and/or deepest fears can be projected. Google Buzz is brilliant or Google Buzz is stupid; Google Buzz changes everything or Google Buzz changes nothing. And so on.

Google’s new service looks and feels a lot like many other social media tools and networks. The primary input is a box for status updates, just like Twitter and Facebook. You can use @ replies, just like Twitter, and you can share photos and other media content easily (there’s even a photo gallery function like Facebook’s). If you’re mobile, you can give Google Buzz your current location and get comments about that location, just like Foursquare and Gowalla and Yelp. But the single biggest difference between Google Buzz and all of these other services is that Buzz is tied to email.

Although you can get Twitter updates in your inbox, and you can get email notifications from Facebook of new messages (and can now respond to them via email as well), those two services aren’t explicitly integrated into email the way Buzz is. But is that integration a strength or a weakness? That probably depends on how you feel about your email. If, like some people, your email is a place where you mostly get spam, and where you find yourself paddling hard to keep your head above water with all the new messages coming in, then getting a ton of new stuff in your inbox that amounts to social chatter is not going to strike you as a great idea.

At the same time, however, being tied into email is one of the big strengths of Buzz. Instead of having to remember to go and check a separate web site or start up a separate app, all those discussions and content sharing come right into the thing you use most — your email inbox. And if you get overwhelmed, you can always unfollow someone, or mute their conversations. Some people who responded to the Buzz announcement, including TechCrunch writer Erick Schonfeld, said that they were more likely to use Buzz because it was integrated into their mail. Others, however, seemed irritated by the connection, especially the fact that Google publicly reveals who your most-emailed contacts are.

I think one of the biggest problems for Buzz is that sharing short, status update-type messages or having discussions about ephemeral topics is a very different type of communication than what most people use their email client for. If you do work through your Gmail, then you’re getting longer messages, some with attachments, responding to questions about projects, and so on — that doesn’t really jibe with a Twitter post or a Facebook message from your friend about a great Lolcat video or the photos from his trip to Tuscany. Twitter and Facebook are streams into which you dip from time to time, whereas email is much more a task-specific type of tool. Do they belong together? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user bcostin

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Google Buzz’s True Home Is in the Enterprise

21 Responses to “Google Buzz and Email: Strength or Weakness?”

  1. abeselom gebre

    ahh, it is really annoying, i can’t get an access to my in box,i tried it for 3hrs, never worked ,please, please, please, turn off this buzz thing,aaaahhhhhhhhh

  2. The conversation piece is impressive and makes it great for having live conversations with friends and people you normally email, but it is too cumbersome a system to use like Twitter where you broadcast to thousands of people, it would make it nearly impossible to track conversations that starting having hundreds of comments and replies, you would spend too long reading and catching up with the conversation.

  3. Yeah like you said A giant inkblot and we see good or evil depending on what we thought before…

    GMail was a placeholder for me, I used use Yahoo for my writing stuff so its not like I have bunches of names to parse through but I’m not excited about repicating my Twitter FriendFeed list on another site.

    I’m not seeing that killer feature that makes it worth my time to go through a learning tweaking curve. I’d be curious how many people use another e-mail and don’t plan to switch to the big G just to ge buzzed and I’m not seeing the Twitter love by Buzz posting to Twitter it tracks my feed or at least my posts

    Not fail but no big win either, unproven

  4. I use Google Apps for my Domain and and having to sign in to an unused GMail account seems like a waste of my time. They have said it will be rolled out to users like me, but there will be further splintering of my identity (as Google sees it.)

    There’s 2 solutions, firstly allow the Google Apps for my Domain accounts to act as a fully fledged Google account and let me roll all my current services over to it and secondly allow a standalone Buzz client.

  5. 6knowspring

    Interesting- so now you can update Twitter and Facebook from Gmail? This is going to be an interesting ‘complication’ between Google and governments of countries (like China) where these services have been blocked.

    Having this ‘work-around’ to post and receive updates to these services is probably going to further exacerbate the whole Google-China issue (though things seem to have quietened down some).

    It would be interesting to see what the public reaction would be if China ends up blocking Gmail.

  6. To me, Google Buzz is an enhancement to Gmail more than a stand alone product. People send me links to videos, photos, and articles in email all the time. I think Buzz actually helps to separate those siphon off those types of messages, and it makes those messages, with their comments, a whole lot cleaner.

    I feel like my Facebook news feed is extremely noisy right now, and most of what is shared is not interesting. With Buzz, the sharing feels much more direct and purposeful.

  7. I am beyond pissed off. As a publicist and standup comic in NYC, my email is a sacred place for my eyes and my eyes only. I am so livid right now because I’m busy trying to figure out who can see what. I have agents, clients, headhunters, famous people (gasp) that I communicate with on a daily basis. Now I’m busy trying to figure out who can see my shit and how to turn it off.

    Doesn’t help that Google #buzz is frozen because of traffic. I am really not happy right now.

    I’ll stick to FB and Twitter for that sort of interaction, thank you.