Maybe I’m daft (ok, we all know I am daft), but what new features, really new features does Google Buzz bring to the table? For the end user, it really seems like something that could have been cobbled together with a clever Greasemonkey script, which is an unusually low bar for a Google product.
It just pulls Google Reader into GMail. Oh, sure, there’s some location-aware nish-nosh and something about better thumbnails, but the conversations I see on Buzz are identical to the ones I was seeing on Reader. A while back, Reader even let you put up aimless updates, basically creating Buzz without the buzz.
With pre-Buzz Reader and some simple RSS magic, you could even pull in and share you Twitter feed, your Flickr photos, and whatever the hell else they’re now trumpeting, and you already saw updates pre-selected by your friends and colleagues. Buzz just pulled together (quite nicely, I might add) a lot of elements that were already there for power users and forced them down the world’s unsuspecting throat.
Still, it’s not a bad move at all. So long, Facebook, says Jason Calcanis, who writes that Facebook is over because of this announcement. He’s wrong, if interestingly wrong, but misses a bigger point:
Talk is cheap and random conversational traffic is nearly worthless.
It’s fun and interesting, sure, but the conversations going on are largely worthless when it comes to monetization except when shoveled together in mass quantities at low cost, and since the feature set becomes more and more commoditized, it’s a tough long-term game to follow if you’re going for pure advertisement conversions when people would rather just keep talking. There’s a reason we don’t have billionaire bulletin board maintainers walking around, so smart web developers leave out popular social features rather than just piling them on, focusing on what will make their community profitably sustainable.
Targeting these communities helps a lot, but carving these communities out of larger sites is tricky, to say the least. Twitter tried, with mediocre resluts. In the end, I think the social network megasites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and, yes, Buzz, will end up being profitable cash cows like instant messaging and various forums, not worthy of much investment unless they can spin themselves past their conversational focus into more exciting, revenue-wise, territory.