Google Buzz: Then and now

The reality is that Google Buzz doesn't "just work" -- it needs to be tweaked and modified, not just by Google, but by the users

As the initial excitement over Google Buzz turned to fears of poor privacy safeguards, Google scrambled to tweak the social networking service and satisfy its users. The result is a Google Buzz that's fundamentally different than the one Google unveiled at its Mountain View headquarters last week.

Yes, you can still use Google Buzz to chat with friends and acquaintances and to share news stories, photos and videos. When I say "fundamentally different," I don't mean that the things you can do in Buzz have changed, but Google's rationale for the service's existence are now tarnished.

I watched Google introduce Buzz last week via a live video feed, and one of the points the company continually stressed was that Buzz is a "Google approach to sharing." Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice president of product marketing, used an anecdote of how Web search morphed from hand-picked links to algorithmic indexing, implying that Google Buzz would do the same thing for social networking, making sense of its vast amounts of information.

In other words, Google Buzz is controlled by computer calculations, not by hand. There are a few ways Buzz accomplishes this, but foremost is its auto-selection of people to follow, based on your 40 most frequent Gmail contacts. This was the first bullet point Google brought up when introducing the service, but it's also the feature that's come under fire the most during the past week.

Turns out, people don't want their social networking connections determined by algorithm. People complained that Buzz could expose a cheating spouse or an employee who converses with the competition. One user said Google Buzz had inadvertently reconnected her with her abusive ex-husband. The Electronic Privacy Information Center complained to the government. Google, in turn, caved and converted its auto-follow system into an auto-recommendation system. You're back to hand-picking the people you wish to follow.

That's not the only thing Google changed in the past week. The company has greatly expanded the amount of control users have over which parts of their profile are visible, including the ability to block anyone regardless of whether they've created a public Google Profile. These are welcome changes from a privacy standpoint, but they also betray another point Google stressed when introducing the service, that it "just works."

The reality is that Google Buzz doesn't "just work." It needs to be tweaked and modified, not just by Google, but by the users, so they can fully control what they want to get out of it. Google Buzz is not social networking on auto-pilot, as Google seemed to suggest last week, it's just another place to read status updates.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags google buzz

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?