Google Buzz brings status updates, links, videos and other shared features into the Gmail interface. If you've updated through Facebook or Twitter you'll be comfortable with the process: enter a quick sentence or paragraph describing ... well, anything really. Your thoughts. A recommended link. A question. It's all fair game.
1. How does Google Buzz work?
Google Buzz appears as an option in you Gmail navigation. Buzz uses the people you email and chat with most often to build the first iteration of your network. This network was originally created by default -- you didn't have much say in the matter -- but it's since been changed to a more user-friendly list of suggested people to follow.
You can choose to share Buzz updates publicly or privately on a post-by-post basis (more on that below). One caveat: the contacts you follow are publicly available through your Google Profile page. Google got deserved criticism for this, so it added a number of user management features soon after launch. You can read more about the improved user tools here.
You'll need to go through a couple gyrations if/when you want to block a contact you're following (a rare circumstance, but not unheard of -- especially if your first flush of following was too enthusiastic). First, you have to unfollow the Buzz contact. Only then will you see the block option.
2. Go to your Buzz section. Click on the update you want to mute. A little black arrow designates a selected update.
3. Press "M" on your keyboard to mute this update. The conversation will fade out of the Buzz stream. It's still searchable.
Here's how Buzz looks once it's part of your Gmail account (click to see a larger view):
2. How is Google Buzz integrated into other Google products?
It's built into Gmail, so that's where it lives. Just like Facebook, Buzz shows pictures, videos and links inline. You don't have to click out to YouTube, Flickr, or other external services to view a lot of the content your contacts share.
Comments posted to Buzz items appear in your Gmail inbox, so you'll receive call-backs to your Buzz feed whenever there's activity of note. Facebook implemented this same feature long ago, and you can now respond to Facebook comments through email replies. I've always thought the email hook was one of Facebook's most important features. Apparently, Google did too.
Buzz updates appear in Google Profile pages, and Profiles have RSS feeds. That means you can use all sorts of services to sort and mash-up Buzz information. You can learn more about Google Profiles here.
3. Is Google Buzz a substitute for Twitter or Facebook?
Based on early information from The Wall Street Journal, Google Buzz is more of a threat to Facebook than Twitter. Buzz gives you direct access to videos, links and status updates shared by your contacts. Sound familiar? That same mix is what makes Facebook an engagement powerhouse.
The public/private functionality built into buzz is interesting because it appears to reside in the space between Twitter's public functionality and Facebook's private messaging. I realize you can make tweets private and Facebook updates public (especially now), but each service carries a different expectation. It looks like Buzz will use a public/private switch as a differentiator.
Buzz also partially resides in FriendFeed's super-aggregator domain (FriendFeed is owned by Facebook). You can integrate your Picasa (owned by Google), Flickr (owned by Yahoo), Twitter and Google Reader updates into your Buzz feed.
4. How is Google Buzz integrated with mobile?
iPhone and Android users can access Buzz by visiting buzz.google.com on their mobile browsers. There are no separate mobile apps (yet ...).
The really interesting thing about mobile Buzz is its use of location. A "nearby" view shows public updates in your vicinity -- sort of like Foursquare. This view also incorporates updates from people you don't follow. As you'd expect, Buzz also works with Google Maps.
Here's a screenshot of the Nearby feature:
5. What's in this for Google? Do they want to keep me tied to Gmail?
It's a pretty simple: the more time you spend in Google products, the more opportunities that creates for advertising and branding.
Moreover, time and attention are the Web's scarcest resources. That's why Google embedded Google Talk in Gmail years ago. And now, with Buzz, Google certainly wants to siphon as much time and attention as it can from an on-the-rise competitor like Facebook.
Google is also a long-view company, and sometimes it takes a while to see the connections between various products. But here's an example: Michael Arrington noted that Buzz makes Google Profiles, those once-static "about me" pages, far more robust. Will there be more Buzz cross-pollination? I wouldn't be surprised. Google has a history of using data across services.
One thing I wonder about, though: What does Google Buzz mean for Google Wave? The two services have overlap -- not completely, but enough to be significant. I've found Wave to be great for collaboration ... when I remember to check it. I had to go so far as to set a weekly Wave check-in alarm in my calendar. That's not a good sign. But Gmail? I'm always logged in because email, after all these years, remains a killer app. It's going to be interesting to see how Buzz and Wave divvy up their turf.
Buzz tips, hacks and tutorials
- Hide/remove Google Buzz updates from your Gmail inbox (Lifehacker)
- How do I automatically publish my Buzz to Twitter? (DeWitt Clinton)
- Connect your blog or some other feed to Google Buzz (Brad Fitzpatrick)
- Integrating Posterous and Google Buzz (Posterous Blog)
- Mute Buzz conversations with a keyboard shortcut (Andy Beard)
- How to create a Google Profile for a business, project or team (O'Reilly Answers)
- How to search Google Buzz (Search Engine Land)
More information on Google Buzz
- How to disable Google Buzz (O'Reilly Answers)
- Google Buzz re-invents Gmail (Radar)
- If Google Wave Is the Future, Google Buzz Is The Present (TechCrunch)
- Google Buzz on TechMeme
- Introducing Google Buzz (Official Google Blog)
- Introducing Google Buzz for mobile (Google Mobile Blog)
- Google Gets More Social With Buzz (New York Times Bits Blog)