Google Buzz for Mobile Follows Foursquare with Location

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-02-10

Google Buzz was accorded a lot of attention for its potential as a disruption to Facebook and Twitter when Google officials unveiled it Feb. 9, but Google also put its stake in the ground for social location services with Buzz.

The desktop version of Google Buzz lets users post updates, links, videos, photos and other content to their Gmail accounts and automatically share them with their Gmail contacts.

Google Buzz also lets users do all that from an Apple iPhone or Google Android phone, but spices up the experience with location-based services such as geotagging.

"With mobile, we could have just taken the desktop experience and just shrunk it down to fit your phone, but we wanted to go a step beyond that and take advantage of some of the unique capabilities of the handsets," Google Buzz Product Manager Todd Jackson said during the Buzz launch event at Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters Feb. 9.

Noting that location is a powerful signal for relevancy, Vic Gundotra, vice president of mobile engineering for Google, demonstrated how to access Buzz from a Nexus One smartphone.

Gundotra used his phone to navigate to his Android phone and began buzzing by clicking the Buzz icon in the upper right hand corner of the browser. 

Buzz queries the phone for the best GPS coordinates and uploads that info to Google's cloud, which figures out where the user is at that time and sends the info back to the phone. The Buzz app then asks a user if he or she is where the phone believes them to be. In this instance, the Buzz app determined Gundotra was at Google.

The engineer then posted a Buzz message to his phone by saying "post buzz" and speaking into the phone. This is made possible by a voice shortcut, which is available in the quick search widget on Android and in Google Mobile App on iPhone. The comment was geotagged, showing where Gundotra was when he posted his Buzz.

Gundotra also showed how users may point their browser to to get to this Google Buzz for mobile app, which has two different views. Much like Google Buzz in Gmail, the Following view shows buzz from the people Gmail users follow.

The geolocation magic happens in the Nearby view in the app. This view shows public buzz that has been tagged with a location near a user, which will include Buzz from people users don't necessarily follow.

From this Nearby view, users can also select a specific place from the list of nearby places and view posts attached to that place. This is Google's mobile approach to serendipitous social discovery, but it is also similar to services from Foursquare and Gowalla, which let users check in at nearby locations and share that location info with friends.

Gundotra also introduced a new Buzz layer on the latest iteration of Google Maps for mobile. This tool let users post public buzz directly, attach a photo and find nearby buzz or buzz anywhere on the map.

In the Buzz layer for Google Maps for mobile, users will see little white icons for nearby places that have had comments posted about them. Users can touch those icons to read the comments. Any comments added will automatically be geo-tagged. Users may also post Buzz at mobile Place Pages.

Users who don't wish to include their location when they post buzz may exclude their location by manually selecting an option. Similar to the desktop version of Buzz, users can control whether their buzz posts are public or private.

The Buzz layer on Google Maps for mobile is available on Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian and iPhone. See the demo videos for Google Buzz for the desktop and mobile phones here.

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