As much as I’ve tried to convince everyone I know not to use Google Buzz, I can’t pull myself away. I’m too curious about stuff like this.
But beyond the bone-headed privacy issues behind Buzz, it’s just not a very good product. It’s hard to know if it was rushed or just ill-conceived, but it was too much all at once with too few options. Here’s how they should have done it:
Start With Statuses ONLY
Forget rolling in Reader, Picasa and Twitter: start only with the Twitter-like ability to post messages, with the ability to pull in your gchat status and the ability to comment or like.
Yes, the web world would have yawned big at another Twitter clone. But this would have been the slow growth that Google needed for Buzz. It would have made the noise much quieter at first without that unread count going completely crazy, and the messages being sent to your inbox when you got a new comment would have been perfectly manageable.
Most importantly, it would have eased the average users into the experience. Yes, those of us highly active on Twitter would have shrugged it off, but it would have been usable and interesting, and would have been much less likely to freak people out when they first got a vomit of information thrown into their Gmail. Which is why most people I know turned it off almost immediately.
Get The Privacy Right The First Time
Even with the flurry of long articles, the problem with Google Buzz’s privacy is very simple: you don’t have control of your own privacy. Instead, you rely on the people you’re following to be private, which is impossible to do.
With the rollout as simple as status messages, the privacy setting could have been made much simpler: Public or Private? If you choose private, then EVERYTHING is private. Your comments don’t appear to anyone except the people you allow to follow you, your name doesn’t appear in any lists of followers even if the person you’re following has thrown privacy to the wind, and your profile page is completely private.
Roll In Services Slowly & With Full, Clear Options
One of the most frustrating things with Buzz is that it hasn’t incorporated in Reader. It only feeds it in, so I see the same shared articles twice.
There’s no reason for this. Reader, Picasa and Blogger are Google products, and they shouldn’t be something that can feed into Buzz until it was fully imlemented. If I see and article shared by someone from Reader, it should be marked as read in Reader as well. If I use the FriendConnect Follow feature on someone’s blog, it should put it in Buzz, Reader and Blogspot BUT it should mark it as read whichever service I read it in.
Likewise with Twitter. As far as I can tell, it’s just feed in tweets, but it should be fully integrated with the Twitter API. Anything you can do in Brizzly and Hootsuite should be possible in Buzz.
I really think that the privacy problems came because Google was trying to recreate FreindFeed, a service that is highly confusing to average internet users. If they had kept things simple from the beginning, I think the world—geeks included, however grudgingly—would have embraced the product. Instead, it’s stoked distrust in a company that relies heavily on people’s trust to achieve their goals, something they could have avoided with a clear, slow rollout.