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Will Buzz bother Facebook?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 09:21 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Here's an idea from Google - you've got used to the idea of e-mail, but you want something more. It's a brand new service which will enable you to integrate live status updates, photos, videos, and map locations into your Gmail conversations with a whole circle of friends and colleagues. Yes, I hear you say wearily, you've already told us about Google Wave and we still don't get the hang of it even though we've all now received our invitations.

No, this is is something different - it's called Buzz and Google is making it clear that this is a massive landgrab for the social networking market. Just how important this launch was became clear when a smart young billionaire appeared on the YouTube screen where Google was showing the webcast of its news conference. Sergey Brin was just one of a team of Googlers outlining the delights of Buzz, but the presence of the co-founder on the platform showed this was not just one of those projects his staff cook up in their spare time.

So what's it all about? Well it's an attempt to make social networking a fully integrated part of Gmail, wherever you use the e-mail service, either on your desktop or on your mobile. Next time you go to Gmail, you may see Buzz right there, as an option beneath your inbox. You're automatically following the people you already communicate with by e-mail or chat and Google says this will be the best way to share anything that you want either your friends - or the whole world - to see. So you can distribute that photo of last night's party either just to your nearest and dearest - or to everyone on Buzz and the wider internet.

Right, I think I've got it. It's a mixture of Facebook's more intimate networking and Twitter's broadcast style. The service is being rolled out over the coming days but I found it ready and waiting to be set up with two people already following me.

It's very easy to start using, with a status box waiting to be filled with an update, and a message saying "Share what you're thinking. Post a picture, video or other link here." So I went ahead with this:

Screengrab of Rory Cellan-Jones's first Buzz"oh boy Buzz has launched and I'm trying to blog about it... so here's a picture", and attached a picture of the family dog. (My social networking habits are already pretty engrained.)

I wasn't entirely clear that I'd made that message public, but another Buzzer quickly responded with this: "Blend of twitter and facebook with mail in the middle of this, this could be good..."

A conversation had started, and quickly gathered pace, with more and more people contributing to my Buzz about Buzz.

Well, it's a start, and if anyone can launch a social network and get immediate take-up, then a company used by most web users every day should have a fighting chance. The example of Wave is not particularly encouraging, but Buzz has two advantages over Google's ill-starred attempt to reinvent e-mail - it's immediately obvious what it's for, especially for anyone who's used a social network before, and it's got a ready-made audience of users who will simply find it nestling in their Gmail toolbox rather than having to seek it out.

But will Facebook be worried? I don't think so. Over 400 million people have now invested plenty of time and effort in building networks of friends and buffing up their Facebook profiles. I'd bet a majority of those people are neither Gmail users, nor especially geeky, so there will have to be a big incentive to move house and start all over again at Buzz.

Twitter may have greater cause for concern. Its audience tends to be the geekier early-adopter types that fled Facebook and will definitely want to try Buzz. But will they want to run everything in their lives - the social, the professional, the dull old admin - all through their e-mail accounts? The idea of convergence, one device that does everything, has been all the rage for some years, and now Google wants to be the ultimate converged service.

I'm not entirely sure I want just one company to run my e-mail, my social conversations, my mapping services, my online photo collections, and so many other facets of my online life. But Buzz has certainly started with a bang, while there's still no sign that Wave will become more than a whisper.

With Google already talking of launching a corporate version of Buzz to help organisations communicate more effectively, it looks as though that earlier experiment in reinventing e-mail may just quietly fade away.

Update 12:15: Twelve hours after beginning my Buzz experiment I'm less and less convinced that it will work for me. It's not that it isn't an effective - and remarkably fast-growing - new form of social networking. It also seems to work very well on the move - I used the Buzz location feature on my phone this morning to spot someone else getting on the same tube train.

It's the fact that, as I feared, it's interfering with my e-mail. Last time I checked my Gmail inbox it had accumulated over 25 Buzz-related messages since 2100 last night when I started buzzing. To manage all this activity, I would have to give up Twitter and Facebook - or find some way of posting to all simultaneously.

So here's the paradox about Buzz - it's so much more effective, so much better integrated with my e-mail than Google Wave that it may just be too noisy to bear.


  • Comment number 1.

    Still waiting for it to appear on my Gmail - but the office is Buzzing with excitement in anticipation!

    (Sorry... couldn't resist....)

  • Comment number 2.

    It's a Twitter clone, what's the point of it?

  • Comment number 3.

    Am I the only one who finds googles expansion into pretty much everything slightly sinister? Its a good search engine but leave it at that. Plus I don't trust this very much as it comes just two weeks after an anouncement that they are to be working along with the NSA.

  • Comment number 4.

    Users who currently use Facebook will not suddenly dump their accounts and use Buzz. They probably would open a Buzz account like having another inactive email address. It will end up being a garbage on the web.

    Those who don't use web social network will never use it.

  • Comment number 5.

    It appeared in my GMail last night. Fortunately I found the way to hide it (in Settings > Labels: set Buzz to "Hide")

    I use email for email and I like the GMail way of doing that. I have no interest in social networking and frankly I object to Google foisting it on me.

  • Comment number 6.

    I already started again when the majority of my friends moved from Bebo to Facebook, due to it having more international appeal for friends further afield.
    I've done MySpace, am not really into Twitter, and no matter how good Buzz is, despite Facebook's limitations, there is no chance I'll be dipping into more Social Networking elsewhere.
    The effort to start all over again and find everyone is not worth it,.

  • Comment number 7.

    RE:4 I agree people won't switch instantly, but it could happen. Look how big Myspace was before everyone discovered Facebook. Buzz is aimed more at mobile users than desktop users, so it may not catch on immediately. With Chrome OS and Android on the Nexus One, Google is really pushing its mobile products and to me, this appears vastly superior to Facebook or Twitter when used on an Android phone.

  • Comment number 8.

    It will fail. The reason is that you have to have a Gmail account for it to work. And all your friends and contacts need the same. What's the point of a social network that is limited to only those who choose to have their email provided by one company? I have a gmail account, and about 20% of my friends do. But we're all on Facebook already and can interact with our non-gmail-using friends.

    I like Google. A lot. What they've done with the Chrome Browser, Android, and the forthcoming ChromeOS are things to get excited about. But not this.

  • Comment number 9.

    It hasn't appeared in my GMail list yet, however once it does I'll take a look, but as other people have mentioned, unless if really proves itself as a decent social networking tool, people will just simply ignore it.

    Most people now use Twitter or Facebook these days to interact with friends and I doubt they'll drop them quickly to use Buzz.

  • Comment number 10.

    GMail worked because it was an improvement on then-current webmail providers (I seem to recall the main selling point at the time was the 1GB of space, while Hotmail was only a few megs, and its tags approach has since proven to be better than folders), whereas it sounds as if Buzz is basically just a Google version of Facebook. More importantly, however, is that changing your email provider doesn't mean your recipients have to do the same. Until there is some sort of universal standard for social network sites that allows communication between them (as eventually became the case with messenger apps), attempts to dethrone Facebook will almost certainly fail, unless they offer something really amazing. Facebook does everything your average person needs (or at least everything offered by any other social networking site), so why would they switch?

    Social networking goes beyond the land of geeks, and since geeks have "normal" friends too, it will be the non-techies that will determine who reigns supreme amongst social networking. I've already given up completely on my Bebo and Myspace accounts, and that's purely because anyone I want to "socialise" with online is using Facebook, either exclusively or along with the others. Some of them took long enough to get into social networking in the first place, so they're hardly likely to bother switching (and even more still don't even bother with social networking at all).

  • Comment number 11.


    I also feel that Google attempting to go into every single available market is a bit sinister so you’re not the only one.

    I am a strong believer in shelf life when it comes to web applications, in that websites have a limited shelf life, 8 years ago MySpace was all the rage everyone had a MySpace account, and now unless you listen to MTV you don’t really hear from them (instead of friends saying send me a message on MySpace it’s drop me a line on Facebook).

    Twitter I don’t think will live much longer than 5 years, it has a limited appeal and it’s limited on what you can do on it – and indeed say.

    This google buzz thing that’s just arrived wont quake facebook boots just yet as it’s essentially the same.

    For any kind of large public migration there needs to be something new, simple and geared towards keeping in contact with friends, the problem that presents Google is facebook is already well geared to that.

    You cant just jump into a market and expect everyone to go over to your product. The main reason for facebook take off, is because when they started they just had University pupils, and then as the pupils graduated it went from the university to the work place, and then out in the open, and that’s how facebook grew and expanded.

    Jumping straight in and attempting to get all members of the public to join a single site that offers little more or nothing at all to the masses wont work, and this is where I feel Google have failed in this one as people will not sign up if they don’t know a significant number of people on the site or there is nothing new to entice them over.

    Google are trying to tap into an already saturated market too late as it’s already got bigger and better players on the scene (I can think of about 5 social networking sites off the top of my head), and that’s not counting the smaller ones that attract a smaller niche market.

    To sum it up, I give it 2 years before Google fold he idea and move onto something else to get their claws into.

  • Comment number 12.

    Isn't this just a carbon copy of the "get updates" feature already on Yahoo mail?

    Can't get excited about it as I never even log in to my Googlemail account through my computer but just get it all downloaded direct to my iPhone.

  • Comment number 13.

    I have my Facebook account for communicating with friends. I have my Twitter account for communicating with the wider world and finding like-minded people. I see no need to merge the two together, as Buzz is trying to achieve.

  • Comment number 14.

    It may be useful among existing Gmailers to give an added dimension to their current contacts. Some of whom may not use or like those full-blown social networking sites (SNS), such as Facebook.
    Anyway, why does Google presume that we naturally want to aggregate all our contacts into one SNS arena? Some prefer to maintain distinctions between how and who they network in, say, Facebook for friends/family/acquaintances and, say, Twitter and LinkedIn for business info. sharing and new business opportunities.
    Technology doesn't have to be about finding 'the one way'.

  • Comment number 15.

    It is sinister that google want to get into everything, but feel it is a bit late for them, everybody is using facebook,

    perhaps google will buy them. help.... world domination. and we are all letting it happen,
    Thank god the government's can step in to stop some of this, has with googles book library.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    @calmandhope no you're not the only is slowly inexorably seeping into, mobile space, social networking. What's next? Utilities? Government? I mean seriously do we need another social network after facebook, twitter?? I can't see how this would topple Facebook from its perch at all. Orkut came and deflated with a whimper..this seems to be round 2.

  • Comment number 18.

    @2 MacBookPro "It's a Twitter clone, what's the point of it?"

    It won't go down alllll the time.

  • Comment number 19.


    One thing i have learned in my small insignificant life is that you should never say never.

    I remember when i started building web applications people where saying myspace will never be superseded because it has everything that anyone will need, and now look at it.

    Look into the future, look at what can be, and then look at what we have at the moment.

    Everything we have at the moment, in 5 - 10 years will be superseded by something or other and unless the big companies now keep up with new trends they will quickly become obsolete.

    You only have to look at: Faceparty, MySpace, Friendster, Mugshot and countless others to know that these things really do have a limited shelf life. And unless they come up with new and better ideas to win back the fickle public, they are destined to the Sedo grave yard (i made that up, but i think it sounds clever)

  • Comment number 20.

    Buzz has yet to appear on my Gmail account (incidentally I noticed Gmail has finally gone from Beta (TM) to finished product!).

    But I'm not sure I want to write public emails, nor yet another social networking site.

    Now I'm sure my 'buzzes' are not going to be as popular as Rory's - after all I don't appear on the TV - but do we really need 6 billion people 'replying all' to each email we send? Do we even care about most peoples' conversations?

    And now I'm worried that I might actually send private emails publically!

  • Comment number 21.

    Personally, I like the universal nature of Google and cannot abide Facebook. I feel forced to have an account in order to remain in contact with "friends" (read: the people I haven't seen for years and don't want to invest a lot of time in remaining in contact with) but if I could consolidate more of that into Gmail - or indeed keep my Gmail for the true friends - then I'd be much happier.

    I think this format will appeal to the middle-ground: the twenty and thirty-somethings who feel too old for Bebo and too impatient to deal with Facebook's repeated and unnecessary format changes.

    I know that at 27, many of my friends and peers will be particularly excited about this as they feel that Google has the best grip (excusing the recent Wave shambles) on what makes a useful, practical and appealing service for its users. They are also committed to listening to feedback. An area where, as far as I'm concerned, Facebook is seriously lacking.

  • Comment number 22.

    I found it on my iPhone mobile Gmail, so followed a breadcrumb trail back to it. Buzzed something and had a reply before I'd even refreshed the page, so people must be mooching around looking for 'Buzzes'.

    The video on their site explains it a bit better and it does look quite interesting, but to echo others' thoughts, I think they're a bit late to the party.

  • Comment number 23.

    Another social networking gimmick. Why should I bother to change it ? After all we can do most of the things in social networking sites what we want. Yes there is always a space to add many more things in social networking site, but point is people don't have much time to go on everything. End of the day we have only 24 hours and effective working time is 12 to 15 hours, including household work. Where the social networking site future will go ??

  • Comment number 24.

    It's also worth noting that nobody expects the entire web to run flailing to Buzz - because they won't have to.

    Buzz will already be there, in the email accounts they are already using, with no need to set up a new username, seek out friends, or fill out endless info panes.

    People - or those without a stubborn need to reject new forms of media - will try it out because it's there, encouraging existing Gmail contacts to do the same so they can test it. It'll grow from there because it's a format,as was mentioned in the article, that we are all essentially familiar with. And those who aren't familiar will be less likely to be intimidated by it, as it's easily accessible and doesn't have the tedious sign-up process of other sites.

    I've been with Gmail since invites were being handed out three at a time and I've witnessed the development of that service over the last few years without ever being disappointed. If they can maintain that level of improvement for Buzz, then I don't think there's any reason that a lot of people wouldn't eventually migrate over to make that their main internet hub. It'll probably be very gradual, after the first excited influx, but there's no reason it shouldn't happen.

  • Comment number 25.

    This won't take off for one simple reason. The name Buzz just dosen't sound cool or modern enough. It sounds like it is a name thought up by some suit in some office somewhere trying to be with it. I will give it a go but only because I already use Gmail. I very much doubt anyone without an account will be inspired to give it a try.

  • Comment number 26.

    At least I'm not the only one. I know its a stupid bit of paranoia but for some reason I'm much more hesitant to give my details to one global brand (google) yet trust another almost happily (facebook).

  • Comment number 27.

    I think that Twitter is going to be hit hard with Buzz. Two reasons: Geo has not been implemented to it's full potential with Twitter and the restriction to 140 chars was a pain - re-editing to try and make it fit. As long as they do no evil, they should be stinging Twitter ...

  • Comment number 28.

    When Facebook came out people slowly trickled over from MySpace as it was a simpler solution and allowed you to do more.

    Facebook has now become more complicated and they seem to change the design of the site once a month. A lot of my friends have got sick of it and no longer use it except to see photos that people have tagged them in.

    Buzz could well be the new Facebook/Twitter, I know a lot of people who use both, myself included, who would like a single solution.

  • Comment number 29.

    Rory - regarding your update, for those of us who are adept at managing multiple interfaces and services at once, I can't see the volume of buzzes being a problem.

    On my home computer I habitually have several tabs of Firefox open, including Gmail, my blogging friends list, Facebook, and several general browsing windows, plus three IM programs and Tweetdeck... often while watching TV as well.

    Plus, for those who are using Buzz more than other programs or services, it will ease the burden of keeping on top of its predecessors, too.

  • Comment number 30.

    Wasn't Maggie telling us last summer that Facebook was "so over?". Yes she was -, and yet 7 months later and shock horror it's still here, and still dominant.
    As for given another faceless corporation more of my private details? I think I'll pass.

  • Comment number 31.

    To 29. Rosie wrote:
    On my home computer I habitually have several tabs of Firefox open, including Gmail, my blogging friends list, Facebook, and several general browsing windows, plus three IM programs and Tweetdeck... often while watching TV as well.


    That's nothing, I have all the above PLUS internet TV, sixteen rotating JPG pictures of my cat, five MMORPG games, two copies of UT3 a PS3 emulator running LBP, 14 instances of C# developer tools and now, Buzz. Pah. Bring it on!

    Seriously though, it's clear Rory's not a youngster anymore and his brain's aged too much to cope with another facebook so having 25 automated messages in his inbox may push him over the edge.

    Plus, he's clearly not heard of "rules" for his incoming email.
    By the way, why does Maggie have EXACTLY the same article on her blog?
    Slow news day? Or is it since Apple released a major nothing, nothing's happened (well, nothing Windows, Google or Apple related that is).

  • Comment number 32.

    Google has no chance with this Buzz thing. It's simple a new Wave that few people will ride. Not only are they late to this but also ho wants to use their email account to socialize ? Google has recently shown that it has lost the plot in many ways and nothing that Google has done other than Search has made it any profits (even though I heard YouTube is now profitable, something I find hard to believe).
    But What Google has on its side, is the fact that it is already very profitable so if it adds a few users to its Buzz network, it will monetize that in the same way it does to webpages. Facebook and Twitter have no business working model and are basically just burning Russian money and hoping for an IPO to do a runner. Google will not succeed that much with this nor with a GPad if/when it releases it.

  • Comment number 33.

    Buzz? Meh.

  • Comment number 34.

    Facebook feels like you're chatting at home, Twitter feels like you're chatting down the pub, Buzz looks like you're tipping your desk in the road.

  • Comment number 35.

    Re: Update

    I found it easy to filter out Buzz from my normal emails. Filters in Gmail are really powerful, and a simple filter of Subject: Buzz, Skip Inbox, took care of the clutter. Now I need to simply click the Buzz label to read the new posts.

  • Comment number 36.

    What Buzz does well that facebook does poorly, is be integrated with Picassa, Flickr, Bogger, Youtube etc, without the need for third-party aps and workarounds.
    It's front end is ugly, and it feels like it is an unfinished product, but there is much to like about it. I certainly prefer it to the alternatives, but I fear that my non-techie friends are too ingrained on the tedious and clunky facebook for them to consider a change.

  • Comment number 37.

    I keep my mail very seperate from social networks on purpose. I spend too much time clearing out e-mail junk as it is. The fear of these companies having instant access to me fills me with dread, even if Google tries to filter it.

  • Comment number 38.

    Buzz . . . hmmmm, it's appeared in my GMail already . . . . part Twitter, part Facebook . . . .

    . . . looks a bit like Twitbook to me!

  • Comment number 39.

    I think that yes as an idea, a new idea it is all good but in terms of Google trying to do everything turns them into what they were trying to be the opposite of and that is imperialists.

    Plus what Rory said about it being a little on the 'too much' side regarding all the other things one may be hooked up with, unless they connect with everything such as fb and twitter so that you can make one post for all at a go. I personally think people will have to choose either to stay where they are or go with the new kids on the block. But then again if only a quarter of the world is online, maybe there're waiting for the 75 percent to come online.

  • Comment number 40.

    You raise some good points here Rory. Yes, it is ridiculous: visiting Facebook, then visit Twitter, then checking your email and Buzz updates in GMail - not just information overload, but overly complicated and spread out information overload. Yes, there are desktop clients and the like to make life easier, but they don't fix the underlying problem.

    And this is exactly why we need an open social networking protocol, so we aren't tied into using one (or several) walled garden/s (like Twitter, Facebook etc.). For the average user, maintaing profiles and activity on several websites is a futile and time-wasting pursuit. Things shouldn't be like this.

    We need an open protocol to allow much more innovation across the whole internet, not just on one particular website - in the same way that the email protocol is open for everyone, and there are many different clients to use it. We aren't tied into one particular website or company. Innovation, email providers and email clients have blossomed. After all, this openness is what defines the web as we know it and has allowed it to become what it has.

    Of course, this would mean people wouldn't be making so much money out of social networking, but it's for the good of everyone, and if any company can push things in the right direction, it's Google.

  • Comment number 41.

    For most people, Facebook is a way of keeping all your pictures so you can keep using your digital camera, a way of chatting with your mates and discovering that person you saw many years ago has had 2 kids and is married.

    Other people use it for the applications, playing some games and flooding me with messages about it. It does everything that 99% of the population need. Of course people will think of ideas, but Facebook is good at re-inventing its self and trying to improve.

    It made MySpace obsolete because MySpace wasn't particularly well made. It's still great for artists and young teenages, but most discover facebook and that's that.

    Bebo is pretty similar to MySpace so I don't think Facebook has any danger here. It doesn't seem to do anything that Facebook can't - at least that people want anyway. I'm sure it will have a handful of Google fanatics using it but that's about it!

  • Comment number 42.

    I think a lot of people are missing how this business model is going to work. Unlike other start-up competitors Buzz does not need to go out and grab Twitter/Facebook users and get them to use their service instead. By lurking in the email system it will always be there.

    There are millions of Gmail and GTalk users, whilst some will be tempted by buzz to begin with - others will gradually start to use the services as Google fleshes them out. Remember, Google own Picassa which is a much more involved photo sharing website than Facebook. By adding the status updates - between that, Gmail, Gtalk and Picassa it has all the useful features from Facebook of old - but on the much more robust Google servers which are better equipped for handling large quantities of data.

    As it is built around the email system - anyone with a Gmail account will just have all of that functionality just waiting for them and inevitably they will start using them. Maybe just to share a few photos between family members to begin with, maybe as a way of not having their important status updates mixed in with the countless spam from FarmVille and Mafia Wars - but people will start to use it, just because it is there.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    I don't think Buzz will be the next big thing on the Web.

    First of all, to my personal disappointment most of the people I know haven't migrated to gmail. I love gmail and I use it as a primary email account, but I have only a few close friends on it, so using Buzz as a social network on my gmail is pointless.

    Then, I think most of the people are happy with facebook, MSN, Skype, etc. It's hard to get them move to another application. That's why I don't believe Buzz offers enough novelty to attract new gmail subscribers.

    Didn't MS try a similar thing with live, or was it called livespaces? I used to upload pics and write short stories on my profile but I've given up with that as well...

  • Comment number 45.

    With it being a relatively straightforward process to turn off Gmail updates from Buzz, I have been impressed at the shear numbers of people who consider it a problem. It only takes but a minute to Google the solution and then disable the Buzz emails but that would be counter to knee-jerk reactionism!

  • Comment number 46.

    Have no idea why my Buzzes appear in my inbox when Google has already taken the liberty of creating my very own Buzz folder. Quite annoying!

  • Comment number 47.

    Paul, didn't you get the option when signing into Gmail to enable Buzz?


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