Having a little trouble wrapping your mind around Google Buzz? We don’t blame you. As familiar as services like Flickr, Facebook and Twitter already are to us, Google’s amorphous mashup of all of the above still feels a bit redundant and confusing. But looking back at the Google Buzz announcement, there are plenty of features that have the potential to turn social networking on its head. Here are four of the most promising and unique features about Buzz that have us waiting to see more.
The Web doesn’t get much more local, immediate and real than speech bubbles pinned to a map, representing things people in your neighborhood said five minutes ago. Sure, Twitter released an API for adding latitude and longitude to any post, but we haven’t seen any implementations quite like this. And as long as Twitter users have to jump through hoops with special clients to make it work, we likely won’t. Because Buzz has location awareness built right into the Web client from the start, we’ll see maps populated with buzz from the moment the client lifts off the ground – not to mention integration with Google’s already-stellar Maps client.
Facebook wants you to submerge yourself in Facebook. It doesn’t play nice with Twitter, Flickr, or even YouTube, which means you need to post status updates both places, post photos both places, and post videos both places. Twitter requires you to reformat links into mini links just to fold any media whatsoever into your 140-character messages. Both of these situations suck. A number of apps exist to make the duplication process easier, but Google Buzz should eliminate the need by tying into many popular outside services – like Twitter and Flickr – right out of the box.
Facebook bombards us with news of how far middle school friends have made it in Mob Wars, commentary on the latest episode of The Bachelor from one-time acquaintances, and invites to events 3,403 miles away every time we log in. To say there’s “noise” in this space is like calling Fran Drescher “slightly irritating.” Google promises to help users filter it by using algorithms like the ones used for search engines to determine what’s relevant and what’s not. Can it succeed? We’ll have to wait for the volume to build, but the fact that Google wants to address it from the start is promising.
Call it ingenious or call it devious, Gmail integration will get people to use Buzz whether they want to or not. Much as Google Talk slipstreamed its way into our hearts by just appearing on the Gmail sidebar one day, we expect Gmail integration will get existing Google users to Buzz by submerging them in it as soon as they go to check their e-mail. If there’s a quicker way to build a user base for a social network, we don’t know what it is.