News Analysis: When Google released its Google Buzz social sharing service Feb. 9, it became natural to speculate whether Buzz would threaten Facebook in the social networking arena.
It won't because, simply, users have become quite comfortable with Facebook and some of the 400 million users have generated a lot of content there in the last six years. That's content that stays there.
Google Buzz lets users post status updates and share Picasa photos, YouTube videos, links and other content right in Gmail. Originally designed to automatically push updates to Gmail users from fellow users with whom they exchange e-mail and engage in chat sessions, the service and its parent became entangled in nasty privacy snafus.
Google Feb. 11 added a checkbox to warn users that Buzz will show the names of Gmail contacts they are following and people following them on their Google profile. Google also made a number of other privacy controls more visible. After further complaints, Google Feb. 13 made Buzz auto-suggest, letting users opt in to who they want to follow.
Google Buzz Product Manager Todd Jackson has publicly apologized for the stress Buzz has caused has been telling press that Google should have tested it out with the families of Google's 20,000 employees.
While it may be tempting to label Buzz a failure and compare it to Facebook's Beacon, which also exposed users' social activities to friends in a major privacy snafu, the fact is that Google is leveraging its large user base of 176 million users.
Thanks to the original auto-follow roll-out, Buzz gained tens of millions of users the moment Google turned it on for a portion of users last Tuesday.
Buzz isn't a failure, and Google is saying and doing the right things to resolve its privacy and public relations headache. Buzz will be a success, in so far as a company can succeed turning e-mail, which Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang calls a "historical social graph," inside out as a social experience.
Buzz will hit a ceiling and that ceiling is the number of Gmail users, the majority of which are probably also Facebook users. It's hard to see Facebook users fleeing the leading social network for the new, less fully featured experience of Buzz. Sure, you can share links, photos and videos and post status updates in Buzz, just as a user might do in Facebook.