Google goes for Twitter

Google Buzz is the search engine giant’s latest attempt to get social to work within its suite of applications. Strangely, while we use Google’s stuff for all sorts of things, from searching to email to RSS aggregation to document editing, we don’t tend to use their services much for sharing. Instead, we go to Twitter, or maybe Facebook.

Perhaps all that will now change.

Here’s a video explaining Buzz and how it will work:

It may seem crazy to attempt to take Twitter on in its own territory, but Google have a couple of real strengths which mean they end up winning the status update battle.

For a start, Google have been quietly building up a range of services based on your Google account. You may have started this account to access Gmail, or maybe Google Reader.

But did you know you also have a public profile on Google, which you can fill up with all sorts of information about you and the sites and services you use? Here’s mine.

Or how about the way Google has a really cool service that manages all of your contacts?

What about the social circle search, which lets you look for content created by your friends, or friends of friends?

In some ways it’s kinda scary the way Google collects all this information, and the way it puts it all together like this. But it’s also a reason why Buzz might succeed where all other Twitter-killers have failed.

What’s one of the things that puts people off Twitter the first time they use it? The fact that you don’t know anyone, and have nobody to talk to. But the way Buzz will tap into your existing networks, you might not have that problem on Google’s service. The user base already exists, and it is already massive.

There is also masses of potential for organisations using Google Apps, where having Buzz as part of the mix will bring masses of value, and possibly kill off Yammer in the process.

There’s another reason why Buzz might well beat Twitter, and that is the money thing. Google has a business model, and a very successful one. It isn’t hard seeing how Buzz can slot into that model, and make a contribution. At some point, though, Twitter is going to have to start earning money. How it does that, and whether it manages to do so without annoying the hell out of its users – for whom revenue generation will necessitate a change – will determine whether Twitter survives.

Another thing that is in Buzz’s favour is that it sits inside Gmail. In your inbox. Despite the massive growth in social networking over the last few years, email is still the internet’s killer app, and most people spend a hell of a lot of time looking at their inboxes.

As an example of this, I use Google Talk a lot as an instant messaging service, but I use it entirely from within Gmail. I usually can’t be faffed loading up a separate client for IM, but if someone’s name pops up in Gmail saying they’re online, I’ll often grab them for a quick chat.

Having a status update, Twitter-like facility sat there too means that I’m going to use it, to the point where I might stop visiting other locations to do similar stuff. Bye, bye Twitter, maybe.

Of course lots of similar stuff was said about Wave, and while that wasn’t exactly a dud, it did strike me as a solution looking for a problem. A great bit of technology that felt a bit like a square peg. Buzz, though, isn’t looking to revolutionise the way we use the web, just to make an existing activity easier, and nearer – and that might be enough to make it work.

Having written all this, I of course don’t have access to Buzz yet. If you are one of the lucky ones, do please tell us all about it in the comments.

Update: Not sure how I missed it, but there is an API for Buzz, allowing for developers to hook it up to all sorts of other services, whether “Atom, AtomPub, Activity Streams, PubSubHubbub, OAuth, MediaRSS, Salmon, the Social Graph API, PortableContacts, WebFinger, and much, much more” according to the Google Social Web blog.


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Dave Briggs

I'm Head of Digital and Design at Adur and Worthing Councils.