Sunday, February 14, 2010

Will Google Buzz Change the Social Media Game?

Buzz has gotten off to a great start in terms of attracting users. Google said in a blog post yesterday that over 9 million posts and comments had been created, and they were seeing over 200 posts per minute. Both numbers have likely grown since then.

In the post, Google addresses some of the privacy concerns people have been having, and improvements they're making based on user feedback.

Update: Google has uploaded the entire Google Buzz launch event. If you are interested in seeing the new product unveiled, you can watch it below:

Article starts: Google held a press event to announce the most "buzzed" topic of the week - Google Buzz. This is Google's new product, which is being compared to social networks like Twitter and Facebook. It is integrated with Gmail and other Google products, and appears to be one of the missing links in tying Google together as a social network, a concept we've discussed repatedly.

Editor's Note: The bulk of this article was written before the announcement was made and has been adjusted to reflect the announcement itself, after liveblogging the press event.

Google says Buzz has five key elements:

1. Auto Following
2. Rich, Fast Sharing experience...
3. Support for public and private sharing....
4. In-box integration
5. Just the good stuff...

Buzz will show a thumbnail of a YouTube video and make it easy to play in line. With photos, they will show thumbnails, but Google built a custom photo viewer, which lets you flip through pictures and see them "big and fast". If you share links, it will automatically fetch headlines and photos from the post (similar to Facebook). You can "like" and "unlike" stuff, and expand comments. It works with keyword shortcuts from Gmail.

Public/Private sharing - The post box will let you post updates publicly or privately. If it's public, it will go to your Google profile, and is indexed by Google's real-time search. You can share privately, and it will let you send to groups and custom groups.

In your in-box, you will see buzz notifications that contain real-time comments. It sits in the same in-box as your regular email, but you can move between your regular in-box and your Buzz stuff. It integrates it right into Gmail.You can also use "@" for replies like with Twitter.

While Google Buzz is presented as a Gmail feature, it goes well beyond Gmail. For one, all public updates you post will be posted to your Google profile page, (which is searchable). In addition, Google launched three new mobile products for Buzz:

1. The ability to use Buzz from on iPhone/Android
2. Brand new app at
3. Maps Update for Nokia Symbian/ Android.

Mobile could be one of the biggest keys to the success of this product. Google says is the world's most popular mobile home page, and Buzz can be accessed from there on iPhone and Android devices. Android's popularity is growing quickly too.

Buzz will find your location (if you let it) and snap your updates to that location. With the Google Maps feature, you can see what people are saying based on location. You can even use voice recognition to post buzz updates by voice.

Google: "Buzz Will Be Just Another Node"

When Google announced Google Buzz earlier this week, the company made it abundantly clear that it was interested in Buzz being as open as possible. Looking at the Google Buzz API page, you'll see that support for Activity Streams, AtomPub, OAuth, PubSubHubbub, Salmon and WebFinger are things that are "coming soon."

What all of this means is that Google is working to make Buzz content something that can be used in as many services as possible, while letting as many services as possible come into Buzz.

"The idea is that someday, any host on the web should be able to implement these open protocols and send messages back and forth in real time with users from any network, without any one company in the middle," says Google software engineer DeWitt Clinton. "The web contains the social graph, the protocols are standard web protocols, the messages can contain whatever crazy stuff people think to put in them. Google Buzz will be just another node (a very good node, I hope) among many peers. Users of any two systems should be able to send updates back and forth, federate comments, share photos, send @replies, etc., without needing Google in the middle and without using a Google-specific protocol or format."

Google has most recently turned on WebFinger in Gmail (via RRW). WebFinger is described as being about making email addresses more valuable, by letting people attach metadata to them. According to the WebFinger page at Google Code, that can include things like:
- public profile data
- pointer to identity provider (e.g. OpenID server)
- a public key
- other services used by that email address (e.g. Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug, Twitter, Facebook, and usernames for each)
- a URL to an avatar
- profile data (nickname, full name, etc)
- whether the email address is also a JID, or explicitly declare that it's NOT an email, and ONLY a JID, or any combination to disambiguate all the addresses that look like
- or even a public declaration that the email address doesn't have public metadata, but has a pointer to an endpoint that, provided authentication, will tell you some protected metadata, depending on who you authenticate as.

WebFinger is enabled for all Gmail/Google Profiles with public profiles. Google's Brad Fitzpatrick discusses more technical details about it here.