The web is buzzing today (pardon the pun) over the latest launch from Google, Gmail Buzz, a sort of social sharing come status updates service.
The early reaction has been mixed, and rightly so. Gmail Buzz (or is that Google Buzz in Gmail?) mixes features seen across multiple social networks and bundles them together in the one service; it seeks to be master of all, and yet suffers for the same reason. There’s the obvious comparisons: it takes on Twitter (status updates,) it takes on Four Square and even Google Latitude (location awareness,) it takes on Facebook (social sharing,) and it has features seen in dozens of other sites.
The two services it presents the biggest risk to are Google Wave, and FriendFeed, although with the proviso that FriendFeed is already dying anyway.
Gmail Buzz isn’t the same as Google Wave in a strict sense, but it’s the elements Buzz borrows that puts Google Wave on death watch. There’s the collaborative media sharing of photos and videos; hardly ground breaking stuff but a core feature currently offered by Google Wave. But the killer feature of Buzz is location: unlike Wave, Buzz is not a stand alone site/ application, and comes built into Gmail. Whether Gmail users like it or not, they all get access, and unless you’re using some of the more exotic features of Wave, Buzz is more convenient, more common, and will in a very short time surpass traffic and use rates for Wave.
The FriendFeed comparison is an obvious one: Buzz comes complete with the option to like an item, group comment on it, or share it. Some of those features are now common place on Facebook, but Buzz offers no risk to the social network giant. FriendFeed, already on borrowed time now has a serious competitor with a captive audience. If FriendFeed wasn’t going to be closed previously (they claim it isn’t, but we’ve never believed that,) it will be now, the only question outstanding being when.
Access to Buzz isn’t universal yet, with Google currently rolling it out. We’ll know for sure in about a week how well it’s received, but in the mean time we’re betting it will be moderately successful for Google in the short term.
Side note: Buzz also must present a serious threat to Google Latitude as well, and we can’t see Latitude remaining as a stand alone service for any significant length of time given Buzz would appear to duplicate its features.