3 Points

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the news, Google’s recently-launched Google Buzz social network is not doing very well – actually, that’s sugarcoating it. Google Buzz is single-handedly the biggest mistake the search engine giant has ever made, and it’s a mistake that’s going to cost them dearly, both in terms of consumer confidence and in terms of actual money.

You see, Google Buzz is already complete failure, and was so almost before it even had a chance to get off the ground. I’ll tell you why.

First off - nobody’s using it.

Yeah. There. I said it. Nobody’s using Google Buzz, despite the fact that every Gmail user had the service unwillingly piggybacked onto their account. I’m following almost my entire Gmail address book, and I get maybe two buzz updates per week. When I asked my friends (via Buzz) why nobody’s using it, I got back a single response: “One too many things that want to know what you're doing now or what you're thinking.” Which brings me to the next reason Google Buzz is a miserable failure:

Google came late to the party.

Everybody’s all a-twitter about Twitter (see what I did there?). Google’s arrival to the microblogging party is unexpected and totally untimely. With Twitter on the rise, practically everyone who wants to get into microblogging is heading over there – and people simply don’t have the time or effort to update Google Buzz AND Twitter. If Google Buzz had come out, I don’t know, three years ago, they might have a shot at rivaling Twitter. But they didn’t.

So that’s why nobody’s using Buzz. But that’s not why it’s such a abject failure. Plenty of big tech companies have started services that didn’t go anywhere – Google’s no stranger to that (Orkut, I’m looking at you here). But the reason that Buzz is such a miserable failure is that Google’s hamfisted launch has created more negative press than almost any decision they’ve made in recent history – indeed, it’s becoming very, very hard to take Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto seriously after watching a woman’s personal life be destroyed by Buzz.

The privacy concerns are epic – so epic, in fact, that they’re likely to land Google in courts around the world and are very likely going to slow the adoption rate of Gmail as users around the world start to wonder what unwilling application Google will saddle them with next.
Speaking personally, I’ve been a huge Gmail fan for years, and I’m seriously considering dropping them in favor of an email provider who actually takes my privacy seriously.

Even if Google were to completely eradicate Buzz right now and admit that they completely screwed the pooch, they wouldn’t be able to undo the permanent damage they’ve done to their brand. The multiple apologies and privacy revisions they’ve made don’t undo the damage that they’ve already done. Whoever was responsible for conceiving, planning and launching Google Buzz should probably leave that off his resume – which I can only assume he’s working on right now.

Feb 26, 2010

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