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Google Is Dancing as Fast as It Can With Buzz

Google (s goog), just two days after making substantial changes to Buzz, and less than a week after the service first launched, has again altered the terms of its new chat platform to try and respond to privacy concerns from some vocal users. But will the latest changes be enough to dampen the flames of criticism and get people to focus on the service’s positive features instead of its negative ones? In his blog post about the latest changes, product manager Todd Jackson said the Google team had been “working around the clock” to respond to users’ concerns, including the auto-following of contacts from Gmail and GTalk, which some found disturbing. He wrote:

With Google Buzz, we wanted to make the getting started experience as quick and easy as possible, so that you wouldn’t have to manually peck out your social network from scratch. However, many people just wanted to check out Buzz and see if it would be useful to them, and were not happy that they were already set up to follow people.

Now, instead of auto-following everyone in your Gmail contacts, Buzz will simply show you a list of the contacts you are connected to whom you might want to follow, and then let you decide whether to do so or not. As more than one person has pointed out, this changes the service from an explicitly opt-out process to an opt-in one — which is likely to be a lot less intrusive for those who are sensitive about displaying their email contacts to the world.

In two other notable changes, Google will no longer connect your Picasa web albums and Google Reader shared items automatically (even though that just displayed content that was already public). And a new Buzz tab has been added to the settings in Gmail, which will allow users to either hide Buzz or disable it completely. This is no doubt a response to the numerous “How to disable Buzz” blog posts and discussion threads that sprang up in the wake of the service’s launch.

The fact that they need to make this many changes to Buzz may be further evidence that the members of the Google Buzz team are nerds at the dance, but at least they’re dancing as fast as they can — and they’re not shy about saying they need help learning the steps. But wouldn’t it have been easier if they asked people about this kind of stuff before they launched the product?

Related posts from GigaOM Pro:

Google Buzz’s True Home Is In the Enterprise

Post photo courtesy of Flickr user teo_ladodici

35 Responses to “Google Is Dancing as Fast as It Can With Buzz”

  1. Diana Leskelä

    “…get people to focus on the service’s positive features instead of its negative ones?”
    Violating people’s assumption of email privacy was more than a minor, negative feature. It is a huge issue with ramifications across google’s product portfolio. This isn’t so much about buzz, but about the violation of trust for gmail users. Terms of service change regularly, sure, but deciding to flip the switch overnight on the fundamental concept that one’s email ecosystem- contancts, chats, message contets – is private was an arrogant, heavy handed move. They couldn’t have not considered the ramifications. Maybe they just decide that with its ubiquity (and gradual decline of hotmail and yahoo) gmail users were a captive audience. And maybe they are.

  2. I think the crazy thing here is that there are probably more people with gmail and use gmail only then there are people on all the social networks combined. So in a sense you are right, it is forcing them to adopt social networking for the first time. It’s like being thrown in to the real time stream and hope they can swim and just start using it. This kind of mass exposure could really make a huge change in the social media landscape. Makes me wonder if social media follows Moore’s law and if this is like one of those major leaps in adoption and availability.

    Well I don’t really think of buzz or twitter as something I actually interact with. I think I use them rather passively. The only thing I really use everyday is Facebook and my post on there are just automatically sent out to my twitter which then send it to my myspace and linkedin. I will probably just treat buzz the same way, just have some tool that just forwards my facebook status to twitter and then sent to buzz. To be honest I want to someone to just win the real time stream race so we can all just have one source for everything.

    We started a topic about the good and bads for it on our review site so feel free to add your thoughts.

  3. Buzz like Wave is half Ar**d as usual for google. Again they launch a product that cant be used by people who may actually use it, IE users who use google to host their email domains and use apps.

    What is gong through the minds of a company that provide a “groupware” type product and then releases collaboration products that these users cant use…..

    I have seen that are “going” to allow all “users” to use the products.

    To date no google launch can be called a total success.

    As to rapid response tell that to the people who get conned by fraudulent webites pushed with top ranking Google Ads who have their credit card details stolen.

  4. What I really want to know – because I’m nosy – is whether anybody in the room when Google made its decision that your Gmail contacts are your social graph had any secrets? If they didn’t, I think I feel sorry for their sterile lives. If they did, what were they thinking? Maybe they build their identity silos with multiple gmail accounts and don’t commingle them and can’t imagine doing it any other way. That’s probably good technological advice, but it’s a little too late now, isn’t it?

  5. Google could have easily launched Buzz as a GMail labs feature, as they have done with so many other features. They would have gotten more than enough early adopters to give it a try and provide feedback. Even a week of trial would have given them enough feedback to work with. Guess they were in a hurry to make a big splash in the social media game. Lessons learned.

  6. So far I think Buzz sucks, They is enough similar platforms around to get it right and to look at. The goggle interface is horrible on gmail, it reminds me of the good old days, where you needed a PHd or a high IQ to work it out, With no standard interface or layout makes it harder for the end user to get to grips with it. It makes wonder who are they designing this for.

  7. Google Buzz is better suited than FB or Twitter for official corporate or government communications — such as a product recall or county emergency response. For such an application, part of the answer to the privacy issue is for the enterprise PR department to open a dedicated gmail account and proclaim that all communications through it (buzz, e-mail) are open public record. My Buzz on this topic:

  8. this is what happens when software engineers write code for themselves, colleagues, and their fellow geeks vs. for the public at large. Microsoft has been doing this for years, and they still haven’t learned their lesson (e.g. Windows Mobile) after having been around for 25 years.

  9. Hardik Vania

    Don’t you think that – In race to catch up other peers, likes of Facebook & Twitter, google has done so hurry to launch BUZZ & in turn turning out to making small blunders which affects someone’s privacy.

    Still it force me to think twice before using Google tools except SEARCH.

  10. If they disclosed their attempt they could blow their product launch. Furthermore, it’s not likely Google would receive a big response. First, everyone has other matters to tend to. Second – many people have to see first to care enough to engage or understand (in the first place). Kudos for their guts and big responsiveness.

    • So it’s best to rework the software multiple times? I see this happen at the company I work for on almost every major project, and it ends up costing a lot of extra time, which translates to a lot of extra money. I think the answer to the question of which software development process does Google follow is that they don’t.

  11. Hey Mathew, love your conclusion:
    “But wouldn’t it have been easier if they asked people about this kind of stuff before they launched the product?”

    It’s a no brainer, but apparently a certain company is unable to think of that.

  12. This is a new experience for Google – they’ve had amazing successes, they’ve had things that didn’t pan out, but they’ve never before managed to crap the bad in public this badly. It’s going to make a lot of people rethink how much of their data Google really has, and whether “don’t be evil” is sufficient as a privacy policy.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Data Liberation Front sees their hitcount climb this week…

  13. Google continues to impress me with its rapid response times and willingness to admit where it made a mistake. Granted it should have paid more attention to these issues before launch but it is working hard to address them now that these issues are coming to light.

    Consider Facebook’s response to crticism about its series of privacy missteps. I didn’t see Facebook going to such lenghts to change its default privacy settings to private with the more public option becoming an opt-in.