It looks like Google has decided that this social networking thing is for reals, and hence, has launched something called Google Buzz. (Their previous effort apparently only being popular in Brazil, he added snarkily. (Not that there's anything wrong with Brazil, he hastened to add.))
I've just started playing around with it. Here are a few first gripes.
- Google tries a little too hard to entice you into sharing perhaps more personal information than you might otherwise be inclined to, by badgering you to add more information to your Google Profile in order to make it "eligible" to be added to Google's search listings. Personally, I think I'm easy enough to find on Google (although curse that TV reporter!) already, so I don't much care that my lack of desire to tell you where I was born, where I live, what my superpowers are, etc., make me "ineligible." I do think, however, that many people might be nudged into oversharing. (Also noted on Buzz.)
- Another minor privacy concern: Google Buzz suggests people for me to follow, based on, among other things, my Gmail contacts. People who send me email from a Gmail account might not like the world to know, especially via their real names, that I'm connected with them. FWIW, I decided not to take Google's suggestions except for those who have started following me and/or who have created their own Google Profiles, but I suspect not everyone will be this circumspect. (Also noted on Buzz.)
[Update: I just tried looking at my Profile page after logging out of all things Google, and this time, it does not display my followers or followees. Therefore, I am not sure how much merit there is to my concern. Could someone who has a Google account (Gmail, Blogger, etc.) please visit my Profile page and let me know what you see? Thanks.]
- Conversation fragmentation. This is nothing to do with privacy, but more of blogger's peeve. It's nice that I can pipe my posts to Google Buzz, as it is nice to be able to pipe them to Facebook, but one problem is that people who are moved to comment on something I post are likely to comment in place. This means that while I get feedback, other readers aren't likely to see everything everyone else might have said. Not that I'm one of the world's great conversation starters, but occasionally, I do slip up and say something that others find worthy of reaction, and sometimes, this leads to good discussions between the commenters themselves, whether or not I am part of what develops. It would be the killer app if someone could figure out how to make comments on a blog post automatically cross-post to all places where the post itself appears.
That's about it for now, as far as negativity goes. Minor gripes aside, it looks like a fun thing, and I like the way it integrates with Gmail. Check it out, if you like.
Finally, here's a link to my Google Profile, and it's also over there in the sidebar, if you're interested. If you'd like to follow me on Google Buzz, I'd be flattered. As I said, I won't follow you unless you ask me to, explicitly or implicitly as described above.
[Update 2] Google has posted some relevant information, and slightly changed how they handle some aspects of Buzz. (Thanks, A.)
[Update 3] Here is a strong complaint passed along by Charli Carpenter on LGM, here is another NYT piece (h/t: A), on the backlash more generally, and here is the latest post on Google's Gmail blog -- a response of sorts. Importantly for some, it describes a new option to turn off Buzz completely.