Friday, February 12, 2010

No Way To Tell, Yet, Whether "Buzz" Has Any

Given that Google's "Buzz" application, which, depending on who one talks to is either a "Twitter killer" or a "Facebook killer," has only been live for several days, we probably should give our chattering a rest. Nobody can say whether connecting Buzz to Gmail will result in a viable and large social networking community being created, much less how it might affect Twitter, Facebook or other communities.

There's no question social networking has gone mainstream, and equally no question that "Google" is not one of the names that comes to mind when "social networking" is talked about. I don't know whether Buzz can change that.

In business, incumbency is a powerful thing. There's a reason iTunes owns the music space. You can point to ease of use, elegance or any number of other attributes that have lead to iPod dominance in the music player business, creation of a better way to buy and use music.

One can point to similar advantages for Google in search, Amazon in e-commerce or eBay in auctions. Once such leadership has been established, it is tough to dislodge.

So far, Buzz appears only to be "follower" on the technology front. It has some features of Twitter and some of Facebook, with the potential upside of being able to attract the Gmail audience. I don't know whether it is reasonable to expect people to abandon Facebook or Twitter for Buzz.

Facebook has surpassed 400 million active members. I'd say that is far past the point where switching behavior is "costless." As we like to say, Facebook has something of a moat around it. The ability to easily add third party apps or play games are examples.

Twitter arguably could be a different matter, as that app has gained less mindshare, or users, overall. Perhaps a "fast follower" approach could work there. Still, Buzz likely has most chance of succeeding if its users can uncover some new class of value that neither Facebook nor Twitter yet has done.

Right now, that might be hard to discern. But it's only been several days. We might be looking at years before any pattern emerges. Right now, Buzz does not have the feel of an innovation that creates an entirely-new category of experience. That could change. How it might change is the bigger question.

I'm using the app, but only casually. For me, that's not unusual, though. I use all my social networks quite casually.

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