What's all the Buzz?

Google's new social networking baby, Buzz (see our Feb 12th article, "What's the Buzz? Google's Latest Platform to Outperform Twitter"), has made a stellar debut with online users.  Since its inception on Feb 9th, Buzz has already undergone several changes and improvements, thanks to the loud and clear feedback users sent to Google, much of which was in regards to Buzz' lax privacy policy.  Despite these changes, Buzz' popularity is already beginning to cause the online world to take note.

Since Google launched Buzz earlier this month, and following the many subsequent complaints that Google was not making it clear people had to opt-out of the public nature of their profiles, Google has made several changes to Buzz' default settings.  After just two days of use, Google edited the checkbox allowing the list of followers to become public by making it "more prominent" so people will have an easier time seeing it in the first place.  They also made it possible to "block" followers or "unfollow" people, and have set it up so users will clearly identify their contacts who do not have a public profile.

After just four days of use, Buzz was further altered by having one of its major selling features, auto-following, downgraded to "auto-suggesting".  When someone creates a profile for the first time, Buzz will generate a suggested contacts list with a check box next to each contact.  The user will then click the button that says "follow selected people and start using Buzz."  In addition to the removal of auto-following, Buzz no longer auto-connects users' public Picasa albums and Google Reader shared items, which it was previously set to do.  Another change includes a "Buzz" tab on Gmail which will allow the user to hide Buzz emails from Gmail or disable it altogether; there is also a link to accomplish this task on the set-up page.

A final change to look for:  people using Buzz before the Feb 11th update will soon be given a chance to experience the new start-up process in the coming weeks to better determine whether their contact lists are public or private. 

How has all this controversy affected Buzz' popularity?  Just two days after Buzz' birth, it was already generating 55 posts per second, based on data from an early blog post.  Compared to Facebook (700 status updates per second) and Twitter (600 tweets per second), this is pocket change.  However, keeping in mind that both Facebook and Buzz offer many more "activities" for users than just a single "post" or "status update", it is likely these two services see a lot more movement than these numbers indicate, whereas Twitter does not. 

Furthermore, although Facebook takes the cake on sheer volume at the moment, it is possible users may eventually migrate to Google's highly integrated complex of services (email, chat, photo sharing, social networking, and more).  Given Google's near monopoly on search activity of 34,000 searches per second, compared to Yahoo's 3,200 searches per second and Bing's 927 searches per second (see Matt McGee's By the Numbers article), it is not hard to foresee a time when loyal Google users will want to combine all their online activity in one convenient location.

For the typical Buzz user or someone considering using Buzz to promote a business, this is good news.  Google has made Buzz easier and more secure for the end-user, and has shown a quick commitment to responding to users' concerns.  For all the companies on the Facebook bandwagon, there is now more reason to make Buzz the next logical choice for online marketing.

Contributed by Amanda Finch, VP Operations

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