The UX of Buzz

By | February 11, 2010

Three letters.  WTF!

Logged into GMail and got (what many of you got) a thing about Buzz.  I wasn’t sure what the thing was but clicked on it.  The next thing it says is: You are following 30 people and a bunch of people are following you.

WTF!?  I didn’t want that!  Huh?  What just happened!?  Is this list public?  Who sees this??

OK, calm down, calm down.  Start from the beginning.  What is buzz?

Summary
Buzz is Twitter (Or Facebook Status) inside GMail.  If you type something in there, alot of people, often everyone can see it.  It’s like Twitter that way.

Why is it freaking me out?
Because GMail is the place where everything is private.  It’s not my employers email.  It’s not my wife’s email.  It’s my personal private email.  It’s my sanctuary.  Everything in there is for me and me alone.  Now, this rule has been broken.  Now, there are parts of GMail that are very very public.  I hate this with a passion.  It messes up my primary mental model of what GMail is.  Private.

Why is it brilliant?
I didn’t even realize what was happening and suddenly I was actually using the system the way Google intended it.  It was so frictionless that I literally fell on my butt and  used it more than I have used Twitter in a month.  Even my mother-in-law used it.  Most of the messages on it from people were “WTF is this thing?”  They certainly nailed the “frictionless system”.  The traffic on Buzz must have jumped from zero to a gazillion overnight.

One especially insidious trick is that my IM client (Digsby) thinks that a buzz message is an actual email.  This is huge for Google.  They just inserted a twitter look-a-like into my #1 killer app; email.  Absolutely brilliant.  This is not a well you can go to often.  I hope they made a good bet, because if this thing sucks then they will hear about it forever.

What will happen next?
Initial surge of activity. Some people will get hooked.  An ecosystem will arise similar to the Twitter ecosystem.  Twitter / Facebook and Buzz will compete for mindshare.  Google will eventually win overall.  Facebook is still fine because it has other value, but Twitter might end up suffering.

What’s interesting from a UX standpoint is the lack of 120 character limits.  This may be Twitter’s saving grace.  They have simplicity going for them.

Why the name Buzz?
I don’t know if Google is aware of this, but Yahoo has totally built a web property called Yahoo Buzz.  How is this not trademark infringement?  I see the TM next to the Buzz logo.  Is there a lawyer in the house?  Besides, it’s a pretty bad name.  Buzz.  It’s got no heart.  Guzz? Gooz? Glooz?

There is so much to think about with this new development, I am just overwhelmed.

Fix the privacy flaw in Google Buzz.

UXEchange Question on the topic of Buzz

4 thoughts on “The UX of Buzz

  1. Jörn Zaefferer

    The media integration is quite nice. Haven’t checked others yet, but I can easily select photos from Picasa, even from unlisted albums, and post them on Buzz. Seems to work for Flickr as well.

    Reply
  2. Robert Schultz

    Quote: ” Twitter / Facebook and Buzz will compete for mindshare. Google will eventually win overall. ”

    Do you mean to suggest by this quote that Google Buzz is both a Facebook and Twitter killer as far as ‘live updates’ are concerned?

    I don’t see that happening at all.
    Twitter is not going away anytime soon, most likely never.

    Not everyone has a gmail account.
    My main account is actually a ‘Google Apps for your Domain’ e-mail address. This way I can have whatever@i.want.com while still getting the great gmail web interface and spam filtering.
    But Buzz is gmail only.

    Also everyone I know is already on Facebook or Twitter, or both. Why expend energy into yet another social network?

    All my tech friends and colleagues at work viewed Google buzz with a collective ‘meh’

    Have you been drinking too much of the Google kool-aid? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Glen Lipka Post author

      I’t possible I am over-reacting. That does happen from time to time. I think twitter and Buzz can live side-by-side, specifically, I think the 140 char limit is actually a huge benefit for twitter.

      Reply
  3. Rachel

    Buzz’s Gmail lock-in is its single biggest strength and weakness.

    As someone whose use of Gmail is a tertiary email account for notifications, online signups, and similar transactional uses, Buzz is essentially useless to me. My real network’s not there. And I have no interest in changing my Gmail use to make Buzz work better for me.

    IMO Google has a hard time understanding user needs and designing social products. Latitude, Wave, and now Buzz all are decent product ideas but all were executed around use cases that probably made a ton of sense to the folks on the ‘plex but don’t work so well for the rest of the world.

    Reply

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