Recently we’ve learned two interesting things Google-related. One, Google Wave is dead. And two, Google is working on a comprehensive social networking platform, supposedly to be called Google.Me, to compete with Facebook. Let’s think about this a moment.
I think Wave is an interesting application that could have become a useful tool, had it not become the latest Google project to fall off the wall due to an complete lack of post-launch support. I’m not a fan Google’s “throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks” approach to application deployment. I’d also venture that the success rate of apps launched that way is about the same as my success rate in getting Disqus to accurately compute Reactions to my blog posts. Low, really low.
Google must know that approach doesn’t really work, given the complete opposite approach it took with Google Buzz. Google bolted Buzz onto Gmail accounts, guaranteeing a large user base, even if portions of that use base don’t know anything about Buzz. I think the fact that Google launched Buzz in this aggressive manner is very telling. It tells me that Google really wanted Buzz to succeed. It also makes me wonder if Buzz has a more important purpose than serving as the Twitter clone-of-the-week. Like serving as the advance guard for a greater invasion.
First of all, isn’t it interesting that Buzz has been around for so long and the average Facebook fanatic still couldn’t tell you what Buzz does and how you use it? Facebook (big time) and Twitter (supposedly) hit the big time when they penetrated beyond the Nerd Kingdom into the larger realm. So I think we can stipulate that to be successful Google Buzz- or Google.Me- will need to do so as well. So why does Buzz seem like the Masons, all cloaked in mystery and whatnot? Heck, I’m not sure I know what Buzz really does, and I’m interested in this sort of thing. How little do you think the average Facebook fanatic knows about Buzz? I’m thinking nothing.
If Google had merely tossed Buzz against the wall, the way it did Wave, Buzz would already be dead.
What’s really going on here is that Google is just treading water pending the great (or not, we’ll see) unveiling of Google.Me. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Buzz was merely an advance guard, used to set up camp in our browsers until it is replaced by the (Google hopes) mighty occupation forces of Google.Me.
Either way, I am profoundly ambivalent about Buzz. Google.Me? There is great potential for Google to build a better Facebook. Facebook in many ways is broken, hobbled by its back-end and its origin as a place for college kids to hook up (“Poke” someone? Seriously?). The harder part will be nurturing the application once it is live. That is not Google’s strong point. The hardest part, which could be an insurmountable problem, is getting the non-nerd herd at Facebook to migrate to Google.Me. I’d say the odds are long, but not impossible. Personally, as long as I can push my Google.Me content into Facebook (not a sure thing by any means), I’d use Google.Me if it were a more robust platform. I still miss Pownce, but maybe that’s just me.
As an aside, Google also needs to push this stuff into Google Apps much faster. Another example of Google’s haphazard development style.
In the meantime, I’d be inclined to ignore Buzz completely, but several people I know and whose opinions I respect seem to like it. Maybe they always pull for the underdog, I don’t know. Louis Gray thinks Buzz will survive. Thomas Hawk also likes it a lot, but it could be the yang for his Flickr angst.
At the end of the day, I keep wondering why Google doesn’t use more glue when it tosses these applications up there. Maybe in the case of Buzz, stealth was or perhaps became the plan.
I guess I’ll wait and see what comes (or goes) next.