Buzz kill

Last week Google, in a continued quest for Internet domination, unrolled Buzz, a new social-networking system designed to compete with the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

Like Twitter and Facebook, Buzz allows users to share status updates, links, photos and videos to a group of followers who, in return, can “like” or otherwise comment on posted activity.

In Google’s own words, Buzz is a “new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting and share updates, photos, video and more.”

Too bad the Buzz buzz is largely negative.

Buzz’s biggest problems are twofold: The platform is a dangerous tool for unintentionally blasting the Internet with your personal information—and clumsily at that. Even worse, it’s pointless and doesn’t add anything to the online experience.

I activated my Buzz account (nudged by a pushy Google pop-up message) without realizing that doing so meant anyone who “followed” me or had frequent e-mail communication with me had, by default, access to information or content related to my search histories, e-mail, chat, RSS feed, photos and more.


I quickly found the edit button and reset those options with stricter controls—but, really, that’s the exact opposite of what the process should be.

Gizmodo blogger Harriet Jacobs perhaps put it best in a posting appropriately titled “F*ck You, Google”:

“I use my private Gmail account to e-mail my boyfriend and my mother … you know who my third most frequent contact is? My abusive ex-husband—which is why it’s so exciting, Google, that you automatically allowed all my most frequent contacts access to my [information].”

Even if you don’t have any reason to worry about your data or who sees it, Buzz still fails to defend its existence by providing any sort of value.

Not only is the interface clunky, filled with bits of unfiltered information that unfurl on my screen like a chattering din of cyber voices, but it also does little to answer one burning question: Why the hell do I even need another social-networking system?

My current online world is already cluttered with too much socialization. Some sites are inordinately useful (Twitter, Flickr), others are fun time wasters (Facebook, Goodreads), while others are little more than information placeholders (I’m looking at you, LinkedIn).

And then there are the networking tools such as Foursquare, a cell-phone-activated way for me to tell you where I am at any given moment, that contributes absolutely nothing to the noise that is my life online but instead just gives me the creepy sense that someone’s stalking me on the Internet.

That’s how Buzz makes me feel—seriously people, stop stalking me on the Internet.

Of course, Buzz has its defenders. My editor likes it because it means he never has to leave his Gmail interface again. Likewise, social-networking expert Mashable founder Pete Cashmore believes Buzz will grow into its own.

“Google Buzz certainly isn’t groundbreaking, but it will achieve critical mass virtually overnight. Thanks to integration with Gmail, the new tool is in the eye-line of the millions of users who obsessively check their inboxes,” Cashmore wrote in a post.

Even better, he added, “Google Buzz uses data about those you frequently e-mail to automatically build a social network for you. Gone are the challenges … faced by virtually every new social-networking service. In Google Buzz, your address book is your network.”

Yep—even if you don’t want it to be.