Tweets In Buzz: It’s Complicated — Well, Maybe Political

Yesterday, I moderated a panel at TiEcon featuring the heads of product for Google, Twitter, and Facebook — an interesting group, obviously. It was a good, long discussion (hopefully I’ll have the full video to post soon). But definitely one of the most interesting points of the discussion was when I asked Bradley Horowitz, a Vice President of product management at Google, why Google Buzz doesn’t import tweets in real time? His answer was, well, interesting.

Users of Google Buzz will know that the service is awful at importing tweets. Currently, the import is done in bulk at the end of each day, resulting in a barrage of tweets in streams. It’s so bad, that many users unsubscribe from others who set their Buzz account to auto-import tweets. So why does Google do this? Well, it’s complicated.

It seems logical that Google Buzz would do exactly what FriendFeed (prior to its acquisition by Facebook) would do, which is pull in tweets in realtime. After all, from what I’ve heard from multiple sources, Google does have full access to Twitter’s firehose. This makes sense considering that Google uses the Twitter firehose to populate its search results with tweets baked into them. So why the delay for tweets in Buzz?

When I asked Horowitz this question, he immediately passed the microphone to Twitter’s director of product, Jason Goldman. Goldman immediately passed the microphone back to Horowitz without saying anything. At this point, the audience was getting into it — what’s the answer? Horowitz would only say that Google is working closely with Twitter to come up with the best solution to import tweets.

That, of course, is bullshit.

I pressed, but Horowitz wouldn’t give me anything. So all I can do at this point is speculate based on what I know. Twitter is giving Google full access to its firehose per its agreement for search results. But Buzz may not want to use this data presumably because it would overwhelm Buzz — much like tweets overwhelm FriendFeed. If you’re trying to start a service, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want it to be overrun with data from a competing service. But still, tweets in realtime in Buzz would make it much more useful than it currently is. It would make it, well, FriendFeed.

In other words, I think this is all political. Google doesn’t want Buzz to become yet another Twitter client. And it’s hard to blame them.

Horowitz noted that we’d be hearing more about how Buzz can be used as a platform during Google I/O next week — so hopefully they’ll have more to share about Buzz in general. For now, unfortunately, all of us must suffer through this half-assed approach Buzz takes towards tweets. It makes it the social service that is sort of social.