In a blaze of headlines Google has launched Buzz, its much-hyped “status” application. Let us set aside, for the moment, that Yahoo also has a service called Buzz and consider what the Google service is all about. It is no more than an “integrator”. And it is only doing that if you have a Google Mail account. If you don’t have a Google Mail account or don’t want one, you can’t use Google Buzz. And therein lies Google’s first problem.
Corporates don’t like Google Mail. For a start there are security issues. Then there are legal issues; companies need an auditable trail of emails and that’s much easier when everything is on your own servers. Microsoft Exchange and other similar email platforms rule in the corporate world. If corporates want to use status updates or quickly share information they will continue to use either Twitter, or in-house status sharing applications, such as the market leader, Yammer.
In other businesses the simplicity of having computer-based email applications or CRM programs like ACT mean that Google Mail ends up being restricted to personal email, or other non-business stuff. Many Google Mail accounts are secondary accounts – there for backup or for use when dealing with online services your are not sure about when signing up. Google Mail is a perfect way of diverting those non-core emails away from busy inboxes. That means for many people they’ll need to use Twitter to keep up-to-date with their business colleagues and then Google is hoping they will also use Buzz to keep up to date with their Google Mail contacts. It won’t happen; simplicity is what people want.
Google, of course, is betting on the fact that its application is simple; that it puts in one place everything people will need – microblogging, email, link sharing and so on. That’s a great idea, but fails to take into account the way people actually use Google Mail now and the way people are currently behaving online. Remember, the heaviest users of Google Mail are technophiles; they are online geeks who just love using the technology. The rest of the world – most of us- behave very differently. Don’t judge the likely success of Google Buzz on the technophiles.
Google is admitting that they can’t compete with Twitter anyway. Google search results now include the latest Tweets; and Google Buzz allows you to use Twitter as well. The result of Google Buzz will be that those people who are fans of Google Mail (and most Internet users are not) will be Tweeting inside Google. Round one to Twitter.
On top of all this, Microsoft’s webmail service, Windows Live, has twice as many visits as Gmail. Google’s webmail system is not as popular as they would like you to believe. Indeed, Yahoo Mail gets almost five times as much traffic. Google may have created a lot of buzz about its service, but the reality is that it will only affect a small proportion of the online world. For it to truly succeed , Google will need millions of people to give up Yahoo Mail and Windows Live. It will also need corporate America to change policy and switch to external webmail applications instead of legally secure internal servers. And it will need millions of people to accept an increasingly complex online life – using Twitter for some things and Google Buzz for others.
There is no doubt that Google Buzz will be a success, but not as big as Google would like us to think. And even if it does achieve multimillion levels of usage, much of it will be Tweets anyway.
One other thing; how do you think Google will pay for it? Yes; that’s right. It will load it with adverts. And that’s precisely what people do not like in social networking sites. Ask Facebook, where almost no adverts get clicked on at all. Ask Twitter users who balk at the advertising Tweets in their droves. Google Buzz will undoubtedly be big, but that’s simply because of Google’s size and impact. In reality, Buzz will be an also-ran.