Google is learning a harsh lesson about social networking, thanks to its new Buzz launch.
Knowing someone and being their friend are often two different things.
After the initial “buzz” Google Buzz has pretty much been a buzzkill. The service has outraged many that believe it revealed too much about their private interactions, while others have simply greeted the service with an apathetic meh.
Still, Google’s determined to push forward with Buzz–even if it means taking its licks over privacy. To its credit, Google’s reacting quickly to privacy concerns, rolling out further changes over the weekend.
First, no more auto-following everyone in your Gmail contacts. Now, Google Buzz will auto-suggest those you should follow:
All new users will see the screen above. Those already buzzing will soon get an option to start-over with those that they follow.
Second, Buzz will no longer connect your public Google items–Picasa or Google Reader, for example–automatically.
Lastly, you’ll soon see a new “Buzz” tab in your Gmail Settings, allowing you to turn the thing off completely!
And it’s that last item that suggests Google may be ready to wave the white flag and signal a retreat–even if a temporary one.
Google just has no idea how to run a social network. For example, had Facebook or Twitter received the same negative feedback, would they have been so quick to cave to demands? I suspect not. They’re social networks from the ground-up. They know what they’re trying to achieve and they know the lay of the land. Twitter and Facebook can tell the difference between the vocal minority–that will complain about anything–and the masses. How many times have we seen them back down over new features–it happens, but rarely.
Certainly, Twitter, Facebook et al are a lot slower to react to the instant, superficial complaints of those that would complain their candy tasted too good, given the chance. Google, on the other hand, has no experience in running a successful social network. It therefore has no point of reference to compare users’ complaints against. Without that, it’ll keep acquiescing to any complaints sent its way.
Then what will happen? Google will be left with a social network that doesn’t offend anyone–because it’s so boring, no one uses it!