Google Buzz – Review

Phew, so the hype following yet another Google product release is starting to settle. Having had a good play with it on my iPhone here are some initial thoughts:

The initial experience of entering into your iPhone browser is good. Like all iPhone versions of Google’s key products it’s a tad slow to load but when it does you’re immediately prompted to add Buzz to your homescreen. This sticks the Buzz icon amongst your apps and to all intents and purposes it acts like an app when opened.

When you’re into Buzz you can see a list of any new followers and a timeline of buzzes from those you are currently following. If you click on ‘Map View’ you see this:

This is nice. Here we can see a map with me at the middle and local buzzes displayed as speech bubbles dotted around the map. In this screenshot I’ve clicked on that speech bubble bottom-left, turning it blue and displaying the buzz info at the top of the screen (I was having a curry when first trying Buzz).

The button with the blue dot will centre the map on you. If you click that ‘Buzz’ button in the bottom-left of the map you get local buzzes in list form as in the screenshot below:

Back to the map and click the ‘Menu’ button and you get options to clear or search the map as well as choose other layers of info to display on the map like satellite imagery, traffic info, buzzes and Latitude – Google’s original location-based service which never really took off.

Here’s the map with Google Latitude data on. I don’t really have any friends but you can see my Latitude flag on there. Nice to see Latitude integration as it’s not likely to succeed as a standalone product.

Finally if you hit the ‘Local’ link in the top Google menu (where ‘Web’, ‘Maps’ and ‘More’ sit) you can not only find local businesses as before but also see buzzes posted from each place. I love this. Imagine a time when this is widely adopted. You search for a restaurant and not only can you find one, see its opening hours and read reviews but you can see real-time feedback and conversation such as “the risotto is better than usual tonight” or “the Final Fantasy group are sat at table 5. Spare seats if you wanna come join”. You might think that Twitter has this covered but when you think what a messy workaround hashtags are in connecting conversations around events etc and how short their geolocation currently falls it starts to look like Buzz might clinch this one.

So the massive question that Google Buzz raises is “who’s lunch is Google eating here?”

I personally don’t think this is a threat to anyone immediately. I predict that if people start to adopt it – and unlike Google Wave which is ultimately useless in its current form they might, due to the massive existing GMail user base – it could see off Foursquare and Gowalla by Christmas.

Some people are pitting Buzz against Twitter which doesn’t make sense. Twitter is about abstracted conversation around common events such as sports, TV shows, celebrity deaths etc and the beauty of it is that it is not tied to geography, which is why I disapproved of their introduction of local trending topics. Buzz is completely tied to local mapping. You could say that Twitter is the mind of social media, whilst Buzz is the feet.

The addition of Buzz to Google’s existing suite of admirably innovative but under-performing products such as Wave, Latitude and Profiles is no doubt part of a longer term plan to create the ultimate social platform. This vision is only now starting to peek over the horizon and if you spend just twenty seconds thinking about where we would be if all these services were bundled up with GTalk, GMail etc in a well-architected way it starts to feel incredibly exciting, and being a self-confessed Google fanboy I’m more than happy to at least try to adopt these services and would be quite happy if Google quietly took the social web throne from Facebook.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below on the future of Buzz and Google’s campaign to dominate social media. And of course look for me in Central London on Buzz and follow me 🙂

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