Google have entered the social networking fray with their new Buzz network. It's not the first time they've tried their hand at social networking (their Orkut network has a very respectable 100 million users), but by integrating it into their Gmail service they already have an installed user-base of 170 million, a figure that completely dwarfs Twitter's audience.
From Google's point of view, a land-grab on the social networking scene is a no brainer. Though they now have access to the Twitter pipeline, it's near impossible to monetise through advertising, while the 400 million users of Facebook and all their user-created content also eludes their clutches. Buzz offers Google more pages to advertise through and further information to be mined on their users.
For an in-depth look at Google Buzz's features, check this post by Tech Digest's Ashley Norris.
It's not a completely cynical move by Google however; Buzz does have some nice features, particularly on mobile devices. For instance, if public status updates are posted on a mobile, they not only become searchable, but are also geo-tagged by your current location thanks to integrated Google Maps support. If perchance Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie took a low-key trip to your local Lidl, you could post a quick update and get all of your nearby friends to descend on the scene, cameras and autograph books in hand without the need for messaging each individually and dishing out directions. Sure, Foursquare may have got their first, but it'll be a great way to quickly find out everything going on in your locality, giving it one over Facebook whilst on the move.
The problem lies with attracting new users to the service. While 170 million potential Buzzers (I may well have just coined a new term there!) is a massive figure, it's got a fair bit of catching up to do if it plans on competing with Facebook's 400 million users. While it's easy for Gmail users to jump right in, there will be many groaning at the thought of managing yet another network and separate email account to access it, myself included. I wouldn't call myself a dyed-in-the wool Hotmail user, but to me juggling one personal and one work email is quite enough, thank you very much.
For instance, if you've got a blinged out Myspace page with 8 billion friends, all your drunken holiday snaps posted and (unfortunately) tagged on Facebook, and are secretly stalking Ashton Kutcher's geo-tagged posts on Twitter, can you be bothered with the rigmarole of establishing yourself all over again on a new network?
I mean, seriously, how many status streams do we need to be connected to? Rather than being the definitive online social space it's really just a mish-mash, "Frankenstein's monster" of all the best bits from Facebook and Twitter. It's not really bringing people together in any new way, it's just further diluting people's interactions across yet another network.
This may sound a little fascistic, but surely the world would be better connected on just the one single network rather than spread thinly over several? I'm all for choice, but when it's just between a series of cookie-cutter clones, I'm starting to think my time would be better spent socialising the old fashioned way; a meet up down the pub with a few friends...organised through a Facebook event, of course.