When you're used to doing just about everything right, it's tough to admit that you've done something
wrong not quite as well as you usually do. Such is the fate of Google, the reigning king of Internet applications. Last week, the company took the wraps off Google Buzz, a rapid-fire social media platform not unlike Twitter and Facebook. Users should have gone nuts. Instead, they got annoyed.
First, there was a problem with privacy. Some bloggers, for instance, argued that the "Autofollow" setting on Google Buzz was a big ole' violation of privacy. Others worry that the GPS functionalities on Google Buzz mobile, which add a new "layer" to Google Maps, would make it too easy for users to be found when they don't want to be found. (Sometimes we want to eat pizza in peace, OK?)
More problematically, there were complaints about the basic design of Google Buzz. It was too sprawling, or it was too crowded. It was too frenetic. It was too noisy. I have enough trouble keeping up with all my incoming Gmail messages, some folks complained. And now I've got to keep up with this? ZDNet's Jason Perlow wrote that Google Buzz is "a bit too Alpha and uncontrolled for me to participate in it right now."
For the most part, Google was pretty quiet through all the bellyaching. (The company did agree to tweak the settings on Buzz to increase privacy control.) Yesterday, Bradley Horowitz, Google's VP of product management, told eWeek that the Buzz backlash was unexpected. Horowitz acknowledged unhappiness among users, but stopped short of suggesting Google might have handled the situation differently. Here's Horowitz:
While the outcome was not something I would have wished for or predicted, the remedies and response of the team has really indicated to me that we have a great core competency at Google in terms of being able to develop social software, to be in dialogue with our users and to rapidly iterate an improve the product.
Over to you. Have you been experimenting with Google Buzz? We want to hear about it. What do you like? What don't you like? What could be improved. Depending on the volume of comments we receive, we'll try to create a separate post with some of your responses. In the meantime, you can always find us on Twitter.