I Don’t Get the Buzz about Buzz – Do You?

Posted on Jun 2, 2010 | 71 comments


I sent out a Tweet tonight asking whether anybody uses Google’s Buzz product independently of Twitter.  I got a pretty luke warm reaction.  The overwhelming majority of people who responded gave one of three answers (paraphrased):

  1. It was turned on by default by Gmail.  It’s annoying.
  2. I don’t get it?
  3. I use it to communicate with some Gmail friends who aren’t on Twitter (this was the minority)

And I have to say it myself.  I fall into both category 1 and 2.  Gmail turned it on by default.  I feel annoyed.  I now have a number that appears alongside Buzz every time I log into Gmail to indicate something.  Probably total number of new (and meaningless) Buzzes (is that what they’re called?).  Mostly (I’m guessing 80%) they are just things that were sent as Tweets on Twitter and echoed in Buzz.  I know I could turn it off.  I don’t just to see if anything interesting eventually happens.

OK, I get that Buzz allegedly has threaded conversations.  I wish Twitter did.  I threaded conversations when I use CoTweet.  And I guess that is one of the features people loved the most about FriendFeed.  But why else are people using it?  Is anybody using it?  Is it primarily use case 3 above?

And for me it begs the broader question – why did Google launch Buzz like this in such a haphazard, unplanned way with an uninteresting, undifferentiated product?  Don’t get me wrong – I’m no Google hater.  I drank the kool aid long ago with Maps, Gmail, Earth, etc.  I think when they put their mind to things they are the most talented technology company on the planet.  Or at least in the top 3.  But it seems to me that Google has 2 issues:

  1. For all of the talk about Yahoo’s “Peanut Butter Manifesto” in which Yahoo! was accused of not focused but rather just spreading a lot of resources evenly around the bread like peanut butter it seems as though Google has a bit of this, too.  But they also happen to have the most profitable and successful single business ever created (perhaps).  But … kind of reminds me of a certain Seattle company that for years has tried to create new break-out markets but still derives much of their profits from an operating system and a set of productivity applications.
  2. At some point when you’re a “real” company I wonder whether you can really get away with just launching Beta versions of everything and seeing what sticks.  Might work for Silicon Valley startups.  Not sure it is as effective for big, branded companies that are supposed to stand for quality.

What do you think?  Am I just missing the buzz about Buzz?  Are there some use cases I’m missing?  Are they working on some killer features that are going to lure us all in?  Do you find the rollout of Buzz as strange and poorly planned as I do?  I know this is old but here’s an interesting piece on the missing buzz about Buzz.

p.s. anybody know how to remove the space above the picture and below the title in WordPress?  Annoyingly I had this fixed and it has reappeared with my new install of WP.

* Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph in the UK

  • http://www.alasdairtrotter.com/blog Alasdair

    I think that's right – I'd argue the only (strategic) thing that Google did wrong was not to launch it using Labs (smaller, quieter). Both Google Wave and Google Buzz died because they tried to 'force' them to get big, before they had found their product/market fit….

    On a related note – it's worth considering the stats on startups that fail (over 90%), and that Google is (overall) doing way better than that – precisely because they use a lean/iterative/startup approach to most of their new features and products.

  • http://www.alasdairtrotter.com/blog Alasdair

    I think that's right – I'd argue the only (strategic) thing that Google did wrong was not to launch it using Labs (smaller, quieter). Both Google Wave and Google Buzz died because they tried to 'force' them to get big, before they had found their product/market fit….

    On a related note – it's worth considering the stats on startups that fail (over 90%), and that Google is (overall) doing way better than that – precisely because they use a lean/iterative/startup approach to most of their new features and products.

  • http://www.crashutah.com John Lynn

    Interestingly, this same type of analysis could be made for Google Health. Check out this post that describes how Google Health has suffered from similar issues as Buzz and has basically become mostly irrelevant thanks to Google's lack of commitment and resources to it: http://www.emrandehr.com/2010/05/31/the-demise-

  • http://www.crashutah.com John Lynn

    Interestingly, this same type of analysis could be made for Google Health. Check out this post that describes how Google Health has suffered from similar issues as Buzz and has basically become mostly irrelevant thanks to Google's lack of commitment and resources to it: http://www.emrandehr.com/2010/05/31/the-demise-

  • http://www.brycemaddock.com/ brycemaddock

    Hahaha. So true.

  • http://www.brycemaddock.com/ brycemaddock

    Hahaha. So true.

  • SD

    First off, it seems fairly clear where google has truly “doubled down” vs. engaged in a “hobby” – display advertising (see dclk acquisition) and mobile (android, admob, extensive product innovation, etc, etc.) strike me as the significant bets, whereas labs, docs and chrome seem to be hobbies (with potential).

    Google's extensive suite of “hobbies” seems to be a smart way to horde quality talent….”work on cool projects, and you never know …. it may become strategically important to the mothership”. It also gives them a great way to identify and train emerging managers. Put a smart team on a “google hobby” and you can figure out pretty quickly who your next-gen talent is. I wish more companies had the ability to engage in this “learn by doing” type of training.

    These hobbies can harm the company in 2 ways: 1 – if they launch bad products that reflect poorly upon their reputation for quality and 2 – if they commit resources that distract from the core business.

    My sense is that they have generally had the internal discipline to avoid issue #1 … even if certain products don't take off, they have had very few (if any) truly terrible products, and in fact, they have had several good ones (including the ones you mentioned, plus google docs, picasa, etc.)

    Issue #2 is harder to gauge from the outside, but given the fact that they remain a dominant leader in their core business, and that mgmt is aware of how they became billionaires, I would guess that they jealously protect against diverting resources away from the core.

  • SD

    First off, it seems fairly clear where google has truly “doubled down” vs. engaged in a “hobby” – display advertising (see dclk acquisition) and mobile (android, admob, extensive product innovation, etc, etc.) strike me as the significant bets, whereas labs, docs and chrome seem to be hobbies (with potential).

    Google's extensive suite of “hobbies” seems to be a smart way to horde quality talent….”work on cool projects, and you never know …. it may become strategically important to the mothership”. It also gives them a great way to identify and train emerging managers. Put a smart team on a “google hobby” and you can figure out pretty quickly who your next-gen talent is. I wish more companies had the ability to engage in this “learn by doing” type of training.

    These hobbies can harm the company in 2 ways: 1 – if they launch bad products that reflect poorly upon their reputation for quality and 2 – if they commit resources that distract from the core business.

    My sense is that they have generally had the internal discipline to avoid issue #1 … even if certain products don't take off, they have had very few (if any) truly terrible products, and in fact, they have had several good ones (including the ones you mentioned, plus google docs, picasa, etc.)

    Issue #2 is harder to gauge from the outside, but given the fact that they remain a dominant leader in their core business, and that mgmt is aware of how they became billionaires, I would guess that they jealously protect against diverting resources away from the core.

  • Dan

    Awesome post!

  • http://throughput.us/ consultski

    Me either… however, using Seesmic for the web, I can at least communicate with my colleagues that use it.

  • http://throughput.us/ consultski

    Me either… however, using Seesmic for the web, I can at least communicate with my colleagues that use it.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I just wanted to avoid the debate about whether they were the “best.” I guess you'd throw Facebook, Apple and others into the mix.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I just wanted to avoid the debate about whether they were the “best.” I guess you'd throw Facebook, Apple and others into the mix.

  • http://www.defunkte.es DefunktOne

    Agree on both fronts. Buzz is buzz-less and Google is a one-trick pony. It's called luck. Maybe the execs should read “Fooled by Randomness”. Google will probably never deliver a money maker 1/10 the success of AdWords.

    Having talented people around doesn't change the odds of finding random success…

  • http://www.defunkte.es DefunktOne

    Agree on both fronts. Buzz is buzz-less and Google is a one-trick pony. It's called luck. Maybe the execs should read “Fooled by Randomness”. Google will probably never deliver a money maker 1/10 the success of AdWords.

    Having talented people around doesn't change the odds of finding random success…

  • Ankit Jain

    At first, this is exactly what I thought would happen — i.e. people would auto-post tweets to Buzz. And some of my contacts do that and I tend to mute them. What I have found is that I have a significant number of friends that update their gtalk status/buzz from withing gmail that do not tweet. This was scenario #3 above. But there is a slight twist – none of these people are 'tech geeks'. Buzz is where my mom, the accountant that once filed my taxes and the philosophy major friend that went to school with me share links and their picasa albums. I've found it helpful to keep in touch with this different demographic of friends. Not sure whether others have found this as well.

  • Ankit Jain

    At first, this is exactly what I thought would happen — i.e. people would auto-post tweets to Buzz. And some of my contacts do that and I tend to mute them. What I have found is that I have a significant number of friends that update their gtalk status/buzz from withing gmail that do not tweet. This was scenario #3 above. But there is a slight twist – none of these people are 'tech geeks'. Buzz is where my mom, the accountant that once filed my taxes and the philosophy major friend that went to school with me share links and their picasa albums. I've found it helpful to keep in touch with this different demographic of friends. Not sure whether others have found this as well.

  • Paul

    i have to admit that i don't personally get it either. but my friend told me the other day he was looking at what his tween daughter and all her friends were using. was it facebook or twitter? nope. it was buzz. anecdotal evidence, sure. but i still wonder whether it's a sign of what's to come.

  • Paul

    i have to admit that i don't personally get it either. but my friend told me the other day he was looking at what his tween daughter and all her friends were using. was it facebook or twitter? nope. it was buzz. anecdotal evidence, sure. but i still wonder whether it's a sign of what's to come.

  • http://www.buzzdock.com/?utm_source=YontooPR&utm_medium=Direct&utm_term=AG&utm_campaign=Comment Stacy

    I think if more people I knew were on Gmail, then I would find Buzz more useful. But really, only a handful of people that I frequently communicate with are on Gmail (and thus Buzz).

  • http://www.buzzdock.com/?utm_source=YontooPR&utm_medium=Direct&utm_term=AG&utm_campaign=Comment Stacy

    I think if more people I knew were on Gmail, then I would find Buzz more useful. But really, only a handful of people that I frequently communicate with are on Gmail (and thus Buzz).