Morning Buzz: Live From Google's Major Step Into The Social Spotlight

This morning, Google is hosting an event at its Mountain View, CA headquarters to show off a new social product it has been working on. Google VP of Product Management Bradley Horowitz, VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra, and product manager Todd Jackson are on hand to show it off.

Below, follow our live notes (paraphrased):

They’ve announced it will start in a few minutes, waiting for people in traffic, etc…

Horowitz: Exciting news to share this morning. This is exactly the right audience. Next 45 minutes to hour we’re going to be showing off something. I bet many of you are live-blogging this. That’s not really realtime cause I can talk faster than you can type. We’ll be talking about that. It shouldn’t be so much work to find the right audience for content you want to share. The moments of our life is the most precious time we have. We want tools to manage it better. Let’s take a walk through time and space.

Several years ago a couple of Yahoos thought they could organize the web. Soon they hired up 10,000 people to organize content. Then come algorithmic search engines. But it was still pretty bad.┬áThere was no relevance. It was still really hard to find things. 5 Years later came Google. We’re seeing the same thing with social sites now. But it’s even hard to find value cause there is too much noise. When you have 500 or 5,000 friends it’s very difficult. TMI, oversharing. There are lots of ways to define friends – that’s how you can have 5,000. And this will continue growing, and the problem will get worse and worse.

This is a large scale problem. A relevance problem. We like these kinds of problems. It’s like when we launched Gmail. Today it’s Google Buzz we’re launching. A Google approach to sharing.

Jackson: I’m really excited to show you what Buzz looks like built into Gmail. We started 5 years ago with our new approach to Gmail. First we grouped conversations. Then we added chat. Then we added video chat. Today will Google Buzz, we have a new way to share and communicate inside of Gmail. It’s a new world. I’ll focus on 5 key features.

1) Auto-following. We didn’t want users to have to peck out a totally new social graph. There has always been a giant social network under Gmail. You auto-follow the people you email and chat with the most.

2) Rich, fast sharing experience. Same nice Gmail UI and keyboard shortcuts. Special attention to media.

3) Public and private sharing. We want things Google can index, but also private messages.

4) Inbox integration. The inbox is the center for communication.

5) Just the good stuff. Some much social data, we need to filter the noise.


Buzz tab is right below the Inbox tab in Gmail. As you can see, there are a lot of people I’m already following. In Buzz you see links, you see photos and videos.

We made it great to show media inline. You can see full-size videos and photos. We want photos to be a first-class citizen in Buzz. We built a new kind of photo viewer (overlay viewer). See images from Flickr and Picasa Web. Sharing URLs is a breeze too. When you paste in a link, we gather headlines and photos from the sites that you can select.

Keyboard shortcuts work the same that they do in Gmail. You can Like things (just like FriendFeed). And you can comment on things.

As you can see in the post box, you can easily post things publicly or privately. Public things go to your followers and your Google Profile. And these are instantly indexed by Google.

But you can also post to private, including private groups. We heard this switching was too hard to do in other products. We wanted you to do both really easily.

Inbox integration. Any item in Buzz can become a conversation. (Ha ha people have figured out his email address and are emailing him.) We put these Buzz conversations into you Gmail inbox. And if someone comments while you’re looking at it in your inbox, comments come in in realtime. Things go to your inbox when people comment on your stuff, or when they comment on your comments. Also when someone @replies you – just like Twitter. When you type @ and an initial, you get an autocomplete to see who you want to send it to from your contacts.

So what about finding the best content? We have recommended Buzz. Say I’m not following someone who is a friend of my friend – we put that into the stream, and it will say why it’s recommended (friends commented on it). If you’re not interested click on the “not interested” link and we’ll learn about that. We collapse the bad Buzz too – things like “brb” which don’t mean much to you.

Our strong belief is that organizing the world’s social information is a huge problem. The kind that Google loves to solve.

We’re going to shift gears now and talk about Mobile. We wanted to go a step beyond simply shrinking down our site.

Gundotra: If you liked what Todd just showed you – I think you’re going to love the things that take Buzz beyond Gmail. The early web had millions and millions of web pages. Google realized that you could study the links with PageRank. Today, we’re seeing the same phenomenon with social expressions. We asked ourselves in the real world, how do we find relevancy? Think about your own phone conversations – it’s subliminal so you might not realize it: You ask someone: Where you at — Location.

In the digital world we have not yet utilized location the way we do in the real world. Part of it is because computers think about location differently than we do. They think in lat/long, we think of Places. Google has half a decade investment in location tech. We have Latitude, new Places for Google Maps – we have 50 million of these. Now I’d like to show you three new product experiences for Buzz.

1) Go to on your iPhone or Android phone web browser.

When you click on Buzz on the Google homepage, we find your location with your phone’s GPS – we take the lat/long and recommend a place we think you’re at. So how does this work indoors? The same technique but we use time or day, and things nearby you to guess where you are. It’s very smart. You can also use voice input to post to Buzz.

2) New application for Buzz.

This is a web app that works on Android or the iPhone. It’s a stream-like view for Buzz items. We have a new version of the Place page so show you a summary of a place. Watch the performance, it’s almost instant. There’s a tab called “Nearby” – maybe you’re at a concert and you want to see what people are saying about it. Just hit this button and we’ll show all the public buzz that’s close to you.

3) Update to Google Maps for mobiles (Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian today – other phones to come later)

There’s a brand new Buzz layer. This is nicely integrated to pull your location. We geotag buzzes. You can also post pictures right from Google Mobile Maps – again, geotagged. You can see white chat bubbles that show Buzz elements on the map.

Horowitz: In the third quarter we like to show a video.

———–Here’s a Buzz video demo.————–

Connect to other sites you use – including Twitter.

But wait, there’s more. As many of you know, we have a thriving Enterprise business. We’ve been testing this internally and it’s changed the way we’ve communicated. We’re announcing that we will launch this for business – not today, but coming soon.

We’re also big on standards. Things like PubSubHubbub, and Web Finger. We’re going to do everything we can to make this play nice with the ecosystem.

We’re launching in 9.5 minutes. It will begin to roll out to Gmail users. The journalists are in the first batch. You should have that at 11 AM PT. For the rest of the world it will happen over the next few days.

Finally, we’re just getting started. We’re not done. We’re going to put the product in market and get feedback.

Sergey Brin now on stage for the Q&A.

Q: What about privacy and stalking?

TJ: We want you to share publicly and privately easily. If you need to, you can block users too.

Q: Is there overlap with Google Wave?

BH: Absolutely. A lot of this in inspired by Wave. We want integration with Wave.

Q: What about Latitude?

VG: We launched Latitude a year ago. You can use both, this is a new layer.

Q (from Steve Gillmor): As you know, FriendFeed was bought by Facebook – but it looks like you got all the features (funny).

TJ: We try not to pay attention to competitors. Sharing was the next logical step to add to Gmail.

VG: We want to make this the model for sharing and openness. That means open APIs. We’re working with PubSubHubbub to open this data too.

Q: So you will be making APIs available by Google I/O?

VC: Public feeds are already available today and we’ll make more available.

Q: How is this public info tied to Google Profiles.

TJ: Everything public will show up on Profiles immediately. And it will show up in in Google search results instantly.

Q: Facebook Connect?

TJ: Nothing to announce at this time – but we’ll think about it.

Q: What about Google Voice?

VG: We’re definitely thinking about that too. All the products really.

Q: What about social services, why has Google been behind?

SB: Social has been transitioning. Look at us with Orkut, we’ve had success – this is just the next evolution. Other social things focus on entertainment, I find it useful for productivity.

Q: What about Facebook – how does take it on?

BH: Like what Sergey was saying, I think there is an opening to have a revolution with this. Make social products useful for productivity, for example.

Q: Is this about supplanting Twitter or Facebook with your algorithm?

TJ: In Buzz you can connect Twitter and Flickr from outside, and those can become recommended items.

Q: Can you write back to Twitter?

TJ: Not yet, but eventually you’ll be able to. Right now you can just pull in.

Q: What about spam?

BH: Ha yes, we think about this.

TJ: Fundamentally you see content from people you’re following so it’s harder for spammers to get to you.

Q: What about other sites you can connect to Buzz?

TJ: A few like Twitter and Flickr will be really easy to import. But we made it any feed you have on your profile too.

Q: How do you use it internally?

SB: I recently wrote an op-ed about the Google Books project. It’s hard when it’s just one point of view. So instead I posted it to Google Buzz and I had 50 or more comments. I did a general edit based on my feedback.

Q: Will Buzz elements appear higher on Google Search pages?

TJ: It’s the same way we do other social elements on search pages. We don’t do anything special to promote it.

Q (from Steve): What about track?

TJ: There are many cool ideas, we’re not sure exactly what to use yet. But that’s interesting.

Q: Can you talk a bit more about corporate customers?

BH: Nothing more today – but soon. It’s a V 1.something release. We’re drowning with possibilities with this product.

Q: If Orkut was more successful in the U.S. would you have built Buzz?

SB: When I was in high school I ran a BBS, it’s sort of like these services – it was horribly unsuccessful. I made poor choices. But as the Internet has evolved, we’ve seen things of the social nature evolve. There have been hundreds of iterations of communications online. This is part of a longer term evolution.

Thank you, and we’ll see you on Buzz. The End.