Question: If you were going to challenge Facebook for dominance in the social network world, who would you like to be?
Two months ago, this is the fight that began when the search engine giant launched Google Buzz, a social network addition to its popular Gmail e-mail which millions of us use. According to Google, Buzz is “a new way to share updates, photos, videos and more, and start conversations about things you find interesting.”
It utilizes the built-in base that Gmail users have of people they regularly correspond with, and it allows them to expand their offerings to the world if they like. Since it’s built into the existing Gmail home page, users have nothing new to set up ,nor new usernames or passwords to create, nor a new list of friends to create.
Google promotes features that go beyond Facebook’s status updates, including the ability of Buzz to pull images directly from links (doesn’t Facebook already do that?) and to play videos “in-line” as well as galleries of still photos. Users can also link their Buzz to other social network sites like Flickr, Picasa, Google Reader, and Twitter. Oops — no Facebook. Understandable since that’s the service Buzz is dueling.
Buzz delivers responses to comments right to the user’s Gmail inbox, meaning that your mailbbox can fill up fast if you use Buzz as much as most people use Facebook. You also respond to the responders right from your Gmail box. So, as yet, there is no separate Buzz site; your Gmail inbox is it.
Buzz also sends “recommended” posts and updates and users can select them if they like.
Like Facebook, Buzz users can access the feature from their mobile phones. That application, however, has become the focus of a new lawsuit for both Google and Facebook.
Last month, Bloomberg.com reported Wireless Ink Corp. filed a suit seeking cash compensation and a court order to prevent Facebook and Google from allowing users to join the sites from their cell phones, according to an article by David Glovin and Susan Decker.
A Patented Fight
Wireless Ink, which owns the Winksite service, claims it has an exclusive patent linking cell phones to social network sites, and that the patent was issued them last October. The New York software firm has created Web sites that can be accessed from users mobile wireless devices such as cell phones. Wireless Ink. claims it has 75,000 registered users already. The company said it first made the application public in 2004, so Facebook and Google knew of its existence when they began linking their sites to mobile devices.
Like every other new Web 2.0 creation, time will tell if Google Buzz is superfluous or offers enough uniqueness to interest large numbers of users. Some are skeptical, however. Writing in Laptopmag.com, for example, Dana Wollman says the following:
“Personally, the idea of having my updates indexed in my Google Profile is oddly scary to me, even though my tweets are all public as well. I think the difference, for me, is that someone has to be on Twitter, seeing my tweets in their timeline, to become aware of me. My Google Profile appears every time someone searches for me on Google.”
Method to Madness?
Others note there is a method to the seeming madness of adding yet another social networking site. Chris Foresman writes on arstechnia.com that, “Buzz is designed to bring the fire hose of social media and status updates down to a useful trickle of the most ‘interesting’ bits.”
And Google’s Todd Jackson calls it “a Google approach to sharing.”
Whether you like the idea or not, betting against Google and its resources is not the safest way to go either in this world or in the virtual unknown.