When Google Buzz launched three weeks ago, the product wasn’t ready. There were basic privacy issues that still needed to be hammered out (and were quickly addressed by Google), but beyond that Google Buzz simply did not work smoothly enough to force feed it to 175 million Gmail users without any warning. (MG covered some of the usability issues last week).
So why was Google Buzz pushed out the door too soon? I have three interrelated theories:
- Google still wants to buy Twitter, and putting Buzz into Gmail might be enough of a threat to bring Twitter back to the table. Buzz did not launch in some Google Labs backwater. It is placed front and center in Gmail. Buzz is Google’s strongest effort yet to enter the stream. If Buzz can gain traction it would certainly help Google’s negotiating position with Twitter.
- Independent of any pressure it may place on Twitter, Google needs to have its own realtime micro-messaging communications system. The micro-message bus is just a more efficient way to communicate than email for many types of messages so it makes sense to add it as a layer to Gmail: broadcast your public messages via Buzz, and keep private ones on email or chat, all from the same place.
- The other reason Google needed to establish its own social stream pronto is that links passed through social sharing are beginning to rival search as a primary driver of traffic for many sites. Part of Google’s prowess stems from the fact that it is the largest referrer of traffic to many other Websites. It doesn’t want to lose that status to social sharing streams such as Facebook or Twitter. Already, Buzz is helping to boost sharing through Google Reader. While Google doesn’t benefit directly from that traffic (yet), simply knowing what links people are sharing and clicking on is valuable data which can help it improve its search results.
Google needed to get into this game as fast as it could, even if there were bumps along the way. The question now is whether Buzz can keep building.
Photo credit: Flickr/ Chelseagirl