Google’s two paths to success with buzz

2010 February 15
by Dave

Google launched buzz, it’s new social networking platform, last week to lots of negative sentiment among the tech press and internet users. Granted the two do overlap a bit so I should just say that the internet is not keen on buzz. Avid Facebook users have no interest in cutting back their number of friends to just those that use gmail and are happy with their current social networking setup. Once Facebook launches integrated webmail in the next year or so, Facebook hopes they will be lost to the outside web completely.

Over the past couple of years facebook has been making a push to integrate themselves into as much of the web as possible. This has not met with much success. They have managed to open facebook chat up to the Jabber chat protocol so you can chat with your facebook friends using pretty much any chat client you want, including gmail chat. One of Google’s core competencies is api development and that is going to be the thing that gives them a chance to take on facebook.

Google is in the process of rolling out an api that gives full read and write support for buzz posts. That means that I can write an application or web site that gives full buzz functionality outside of buzz. Facebook would never do that. Their entire focus is on sucking people in. Twitter power users almost never go  to twitter’s website. They use a whole host of outside developed twitter tools to cope with the vast amount of information that they end up following. Buzz aims to bring this ecosystem to social networking and hopefully by allowing users to figure out what they want to do will end up providing functionality that surpasses facebook.

A facebook app developer will be able to make a facebook app that lets people follow and update buzz from within their facebook account. You will probably be able to click on a facebook profile and then click on their buzz widget to see who they follow on buzz without leaving facebook. This may enable Google to slowly eat into facebook’s market share directly.

The other, and more significant, way that buzz may succeed is similar to gmail’s integrated chat. Remember that when google first launched chat it seemed superfluous. People that used chat alot already had dedicated applications which all of the people that they chatted with also used. This has not changed. Gmail chat has succeeded by allowing people who normally wouldn’t chat to do so on an occasional basis. By being an integrated, useful tool that users can use as little as they like, google’s chat service has slowly created new users in the chat market space. This directly benefits google by causing people to spend more time in gmail and be served more ads.

Buzz is most likely to succeed in this manner. It will be initially ignored and then one day your mom will make a tentative post to let the rest of your family know that she is heading out to pick up the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner and to let yourselves in. She will not use it much, but she might click on an ad for a coupon for cranberry sauce.

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