Does the world need another social network?
That is the big question today after Google introduced its much rumoured social networking features to Gmail. Here's the pitch:
"Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting," announced Google Gmail and Buzz product manager Todd Jackson. "It's built right into Gmail, so you don't have to peck out an entirely new set of friends from scratch — it just works. If you think about it, there's always been a big social network underlying Gmail. Buzz brings this network to the surface by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with the most."
"We focused on building an easy-to-use sharing experience that richly integrates photos, videos and links, and makes it easy to share publicly or privately (so you don't have to use different tools to share with different audiences)," he continued "Plus, Buzz integrates tightly with your existing Gmail inbox, so you're sure to see the stuff that matters most as it happens in real time."
Are you convinced? I suspect, like me, you're reaction is along the lines of kinda, sorta, not really.
Making matters a little better are Buzz's open API and the fact it post updates to Twitter (though not call in tweets from those you follow), while there's support for Flickr along with Google products Picasa, Reader, Blogger and YouTube. Vitally, however, dominant forces Facebook and Wordpress are ignored completely as is - rather strangely - its own social network Orkut (wildly popular in Brazil, ignored virtually everywhere else). Furthermore, it is extremely presumptuous on Google's part to assume I want to automatically follow people I email regularly from Gmail. After all, these days email is often more reserved for work than play given the dominance of Twitter and Facebook - so hold your horses Google.
Lastly, and this is a biggie: isn't all this functionality and much, much more meant to be performed by Google Wave?! Wave is founded around real time sharing, collaboration and exchange, so why not simply merge Wave functionality into Gmail. This makes even more sense given that the general reaction to Wave so far has praised the theory, but questioned the logic of having yet another inbox to check and no friends to collaborate with. Merging with Gmail fixes both those flaws.
Ultimately, my first reaction to Buzz is this is Google's iPad: fairly interesting on the surface, but I'm not sure there's a market or a demand for it...