Google's Latest Platform to Outperform Twitter?

Google literally started the online world "buzzing" with the February 9th launch of Google Buzz, the fully Google-integrated platform for real-time sharing set to rival and possibly bring about the end of Twitter.  Gmail users have likely already noticed the new Buzz application in their account, which, according to Google, is preset with all the users' contacts and is ready to roll.  Buzz is already causing some industry warnings, but will probably initiate a frenzy of users and businesses ready to jump on board. During the official launch event, Google touts Buzz' top five highlights that, off the record, officially trump other real-time platforms such as Twitter.  These items of interest include "auto-following", where the user's Gmail contacts and chat buddies automatically become reciprocal "followers", which negate the user having to search for, find, and add contacts.  Google claims this aspect satisfies the user's need to have the platform "just work".

The second selling feature is the ability to share rich content quickly.  Users will be able to view images, videos, links, and content pulled from other applications as quickly and easily as they always wished other platforms worked, but which usually didn't.  This allows the user to flip through their friends' photos with zero delay, at sizes almost as large as the browser window.  Videos will be viewed in-line and in high quality resolution without opening a new window.  Sharing a link will also allow the user to "fetch" headlines and media from that site to display alongside their post, adding a very rich experience users will find refreshing and probably addicting.

Buzz will also allow easy switching between public and private sharing.  Just as in Gmail, users will have the ability to create different contact groups such as co-workers and family, as well as add custom groups.  Switching between groups or posting publicaly is as easy as clicking the appropriate group from a drop-down menu while adding your post.  On the down side, the default setting is "public", allowing your posts to be found by anyone unless you specifically pick another option. 

Fourthly, a great feature of Google Buzz is the easy integration into the Gmail Inbox.  When a user's post is commented on or replied to, an email will be sent to the user's Inbox.  Unlike other applications, however, there will be no need to open a new window and enter a password; instead the email will open and you will be looking at the Google Buzz platform, with all the typical bells and whistles at your immediate control.

Finally, being Google, a "recommended" feature will also be available.  When a non-contact has added something Google feels would be of interest to the user (for example, when several of the user's contacts have commented on a third party's post), Google will post it to the user's Buzz account with a "recommended" link next to it.  This link will explain the reason for the recommendation and allow the user to show whether they are interested or not interested.  Over time, the user's interest, or lack thereof, will "teach" Google about their preferences for future recommendations.

With all this new technology at our fingertips, are there any downsides to Google Buzz?  For one thing, many people are expressing their great concern over the lax nature of Buzz' privacy policy: unless a user manually changes their privacy settings, anyone will be able to access their profile and see the contacts they email or chat with most often. 

Another cause for concern for some businesses: will this new platform add to Google's highly integrated system, further cement Google's monopoly online (including mobile devices), and stunt the growth of other businesses such as Microsoft?  How will this affect other companies?  It will be necessary to keep on top of all changing technology platforms to best communicate your brand as users' preferences change.  In the meantime, many companies are already jumping on-board in an attempt to take advantage of the internet's latest and greatest.



Contributed by Amanda Finch, VP Operations

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