Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Google Buzz: The Facebook-ization of Google

Google surprised me when they suddenly launched their latest endeavor into the social networking world, Buzz. After one look and their introduction video, it seems clear they are targeting one competitor: Facebook. Sure, Buzz includes features from Yelp, Foursquare, Gowalla, and others, but those aren’t the main targets.

Think about it. Facebook is working on a new email feature. Facebook’s goal is to have you on their website for as much time as possible. I know plenty of people who would almost never leave Facebook if they could get their email there. Sure, there would still be users like me who actually post content into Facebook via Twitter linking outside content. But for probably 80-90% of users, Facebook becomes the Internet.

Google doesn’t like that future. Google’s business model is predicated on having users, well, use Google. They want users to experience all the web has to offer, and to find it all through Google Search. There are two parts to that strategy: pushing the openness of the web and empowering users, and then showing them relevant advertisements. Google cannot do all the cool stuff it does without the huge revenue base it has, but more importantly, all these cool things are there to keep you on Google and learn about you so they can keep showing you relevant advertisements.

So what is Buzz? It’s a reason for people who use GMail a lot to stay on Google servers. It’s an attempt to keep users from, once they’ve read their mail, leaving the site and going to Facebook. Will it work? I don’t know. I only have access to Buzz on my Android, in the Maps program, so I can’t say how useful it is. I agree with Eric that the technology involved is cool, but that goes back to part one of the strategy: pushing openness and decentralization. (Think about Google pushing decentralization. If everything isn’t in one place, how do you find it?) But the takeaway of this is that Google is reacting to the Facebook-ization of the Internet, and it seems to be a pretty cool reaction.

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