It has become crystal clear over the last week that Google rushed the introduction of Google Buzz, did little or no external user-testing, and as a result is scrambling to mitigate a massive PR failure.
As we reported last week, early concerns about privacy were confirmed for many when a blogger writing under the name of Harriet Jacobs complained that her “actual physical safety” was under threat as a result of information automatically revealed by Google Buzz to her email correspondents.
Google moved fast and within 48 hours had made certain privacy options more obvious and then followed two days later with modifications to the auto-follow system and to which items are automatically shared. http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/new-buzz-start-up-experience-based-on.html
But the bad news continued. First security company Websense said that they were seeing significant levels of spam on Buzz within two days of launch and then on Tuesday, a post on ha.ckers.org reported that a cross-scripting exploit could allow Google Buzz to be hijacked. Google have rushed to implement a fix and the sniping at Buzz has risen to a crescendo.
Here’s our view of all the fuss and bluster: none of it matters. Google will work out the kinks and everyone will move on. Every change in privacy rules on Facebook has created a storm of some kind but apart from the odd law suit, nobody cares after the first couple of weeks.
The reality is that as a society we are sleep-walking into a future where corporations know pretty much everything about us, and we all seem fine with it. So the concerns of users will be addressed but Buzz will survive and prosper.
Google has prioritized Buzz to the point of launching while still in Beta in order to compete effectively in real-time search and in social media. That was brought into focus by new analyses released by Gigya and their competitor AddThis showing the degree to which Facebook and Twitter dominate authentication of users and also social sharing of links and content from 3rd-party sites such as ABC.com and NBA.com.
Additionally compete.com released their January data showing that Facebook has now overtaken Yahoo to become the second most popular US site with over 133 million unique visitors. More significantly for Google, Compete’s data also shows that users spend 2.5 times more time on Facebook than they do on Google. That’s a lot of engagement that can eventually be monetized.
The bottom line? Google desperately needs Buzz but they need to move quickly if they are not to suffer a damaging blow to their public image. Worse, by showing fallibility, Google has encouraged their competitors and sometimes that kind of psychological edge can make a difference.