Google has already seen some vicious backlash from its recently released Buzz product, namely around the privacy loopholes enabling users’ email address to be accessed publicly through Buzz. These default settings were one of the primary concerns regarding Google Buzz’s privacy loopholes, as users were in some ways caught off guard by the new options in their Gmail account. Google has since addressed these privacy loopholes, making the following of other users a manual process. But will that be enough to save Google from further backlash?
The Google Buzz project was deemed as the search engine’s latest attempt to largely infiltrate the social networking scene, in essence turning our Gmail inboxes into a social combination of Twitter, FourSquare and FriendFeed. As only one of the services listed is actually a Google product, the inclusion of features similar to Twitter and FriendFeed indicated that Google was really looking to use Buzz as a major leap forward in its ability to become truly social.
The options for aggregating a good portion of your social networking activity, including that performed on the dominate social platform of Facebook, added a large convenience factor to what Google Buzz offers. Yet the default social networking of those in your email client seemed to be to much for users, despite their anticipation and expectations surrounding the Google Buzz buzz.
Creating a social network around those you already are in communication with via Gmail has been a tactic Google has employed across a number of its other Apps, products and services. I wasn’t at all surprised to see this level of integration, considering what sharing and following options you already have for things like Gchat and Google Reader. Yet the full-frontal socialization of Gmail appears to be too much for many users to handle, as it takes a great deal of liberty in its particular implementation.
Google has reported that 9 million posts were performed through Google Buzz in its first two days alone, though it’s difficult to pull these numbers out of their integrated status within Gmail and regular user activity. Having so many users so quickly after launch means that Google buzz is a feature that can now come standard with a Google account, diminishing the meaning behind the large numbers Google is now reporting.
While Google has addressed some of these privacy concerns and also announced possible plans for making Google Buzz a standalone option (in addition to its default inclusion of Gmail), there’s still the issue of determining the best way to incorporate social media features into its primary services of search and email.
Microsoft faces similar challenges with its recent search project bing, achieving high numbers because of its integration with heavily trafficked sites under Microsoft’s domain. One huge issue in this type of product release is that it leaves consumers at the mercy of big business and their own objectives.
In this case, making Google Buzz a more manual process is a step in the right direction. As Google looks to become social through the promotion of convenience, it must keep user needs at a level of high priority in order to further appeal to this consumer base.