Having played around with Google Buzz for a day now, I've got some random thougts. For those of you that don't know what Buzz is, it's basically a mix of the different Google social ingredients put into Gmail's wrapping. Like a Google multi-layered taco. It takes the social aspects that Google Reader has been doing well, and the comments from there and YouTube, and tries to amp them up with Gmail's interface. What this means for most of us is that we'll be able to share videos, thoughts, updates, pictures, and whatever else in our Google profiles. Then our friends can join in conversations about whatever we posted.
But there are some differences that get me pretty excited about this:
It's Google. Having been on the inside and having drank the Kool Aid, that alone is close to enough to get me to switch. This means very little (if any) downtime. Facebook has pretty good uptime. Twitter, not so much. Google (or Gmail for that matter) going down is newsworthy and relatively rare. However, this does pose a problem, since when Gmail goes down I usually find myself killing time on Facebook, so mixing the two might cause me to go outside if the combination dies.
It's really well integrated with things I already use. I use Twitter, Reader, and Gmail. My friends and I are already used to commenting on each other's stories posted in Reader. We're already used to chatting and emailing each other in Gmail. We're used to updating each other with Twitter. Few of my friends use Picasa, but I find the interface way better than Facebook's for sharing photos. Yeah, Flickr is probably better still, but I don't do it often enough to care.
It's more open. Facebook is easy to get data into, but difficult to pull it back out of. Google makes it easy both ways. With Googlers constantly trying to free user data (http://www.dataliberation.org/) the trend is for more things to be usable for outside apps. And that's a good thing. That means that we're more likely to see cool mashups.
There are also some points that make me wonder:
We've all spent a huge amount of time refining our Facebook profiles. Now we need to do the same thing with our Google Profiles. But Facebook already has a huge amount of inertia. Lots of people won't switch. So you have a few bad choices: switch and say goodbye to your Facebook-only friends, maintain both profiles and spend twice as much time and deal with the overlap of things showing up on both, or ignore Buzz completely and possibly lose touch with people that switch completely.
The integration, while relatively slick, isn't as seemless as I want. Why can't my Gmail inbox be the gateway to everything that I use? It's obvious that the infrastructure can handle reading long posts and commenting on things, so why can't I have my RSS items there? Why can't I have my email and buzz items mixed together? I normally use a search for "is:unread OR in:inbox". This lets me see anything I haven't read. Things that are addressed directly to me stay in my list until I have handled and archived them. Adding "OR in:buzz" shows me the archived Buzz conversations, but not the unread new Buzzes. If there is a way to see those Buzzes in my feed, I haven't figured it out.
If Buzz can be mashed into Gmail, why not Wave? I understand that the two products are completely different. I just don't care. Googlers are some of the smartest people on the planet, figure it out.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with it so far. But I want more.