Lately, many Gmail users have noticed a new option right below their Inbox that says "Buzz". If you're like me, you probably read the quick Google summary and then ignored it while you took care of your email. I finally decided to investigate Buzz a few days ago, and after hearing some colleagues expressing confusion about this new feature, thought I would address a few questions I've heard over and over:
What is it?
Google Buzz is similar to an RSS feed, except that it integrates all of your social networking data into one area, while also serving as a messaging tool. Buzz users can share things such as status updates, comments, video and pictures, which makes it fairly similar to Facebook and Twitter. The difference? Instead of going to different apps or sites to check all of your profiles, you can combine it all in Buzz.
Why do I need it?
Those of you that use social networking sites and like integration and consolidation will get the most use out of it. If you're already using Gmail, Buzz is right there for your convenience. It's also handy for those who love mobile apps. However, you must have an iPhone/iPod Touch, Windows Mobile, Android 2.0, Openwave or S60, for Buzz to work on your mobile device.
Side note- For those thinking of using Buzz with a supported mobile device, it can integrate your posts with Google Maps so that you can see your location and others around you using Buzz (similar to Google Latitude).
Are there privacy features?
While this is a question I'm still trying to gather all the details on, Buzz didn't have stringent privacy features at first. However, after Google was threatened with multiple lawsuits in February, they added a few privacy features. There is an option to make your Google profile private, so that you don't show up in directories and/or searches. You can also choose the sites that you want to link with for your contacts/followers to see, so you control the information you share. Choosing contacts is also completely in your control, and while Google will suggest people from your Gmail contact list, you have the option to add, ignore or even block them. As added value, you can also view who's following you and choose how you want to react (add, ignore or block), so you can keep tabs on who can see your information.
What type of stuff can I integrate?
Sites currently integrated: Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Google Reader and Blogger.
Can Buzz benefit an IT or Network Manager?
Sure, if you use Gmail (or want to start) and use any of the integrated sites to communicate with others for IT or networking purposes. For instance, if you notice you're having bandwidth problems, you could Twitter about it to notify your coworkers or get advice from your followers and also upload a screenshot of your network stats to Flickr so everyone can see details. Both of those examples can be done directly from within Buzz- no need to go to the Twitter website and Flickr website separately. You could also then use Buzz to tap into your Google Reader to look for tips to help increase your network speed or manage your bandwidth more efficiently.
For those of you that love to try out new tools and software, Google Buzz is an efficient venue for sharing information and opinions quickly. Again, being able to do the majority of your sharing within one area (Buzz) is the key.
Since Google Buzz is still pretty new, the adoption rate isn't as high as Facebook, Twitter or any other mediums of the same nature. However, as Google tweaks it and integrates with additional sites, I can see how convenient it may turn out to be. In an age of information overload, consolidation can really cure a headache!
Is anyone currently using Google Buzz? What do you think of the overall user experience? Any tips to add?