Microsoft Responds to Google Buzz with Yawn

Microsoft reacts to the launch of Google Buzz, which allows Gmail users to post status updates and swap media, by insisting that the Windows maker had already been aggregating user posts from Facebook, Twitter and other services for some time. Many features of Google Buzz seem to present a direct competitive counterpoint to their equivalents on Twitter and Facebook. Between Microsoft, Google, Facebook and a number of smaller companies, the battle for social networking users and the advertising dollars that come with them is fiercer than ever.

Microsoft's official reaction to the Feb. 9 launch of Google Buzz, a service that lets Gmail's 176 million users post status updates, swap Picasa photos, and share YouTube videos and other multimedia content? Been there, done that.

"Busy people don't want another social network," Dharmesh Mehta, director of product management for Windows Live, said in a Feb. 9 statement. "What they want is the convenience of aggregation. We've done that. Hotmail customers have benefited from Microsoft working with Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and 75 other partners since 2008."

Twitter and Facebook have experienced explosive growth over the past few years, riding a wave of interest on the part of both businesses and consumers. Although these networks were confined largely to the desktop at first, in recent months a variety of smartphone applications have allowed users to increasingly take their social networking activities on the road.

Google Buzz seeks to challenge both Twitter and Facebook, not only because it allows Gmail users to push their latest microblogging updates to other users, but because it also allows them to do so from their mobile devices as well as their desktops; Google Buzz for Mobile can identify points of interests around the user and insert them into posts as location tags.

Users can access the service via a Buzz link in their Gmail accounts.

Google said it plans to bring Buzz into Google Apps, which would put the search giant on a collision course with enterprise social networking companies such as Socialtext and MindTouch.

Microsoft's own attempts to embrace social networking over the past few months have included revising its MSN homepage to display Facebook and Twitter feeds and building an aggregation channel titled, "What's New."

For companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo, the personalization inherent in social networking presents increased opportunities for advertising, a vital endeavor as even tech giants scramble to increase revenue in the wake of a massive global recession.

Specifically, increased personalization-which can be created through social networking feeds and other aggregation features-makes sites "stickier," keeping more user eyeballs glued to Web pages for longer periods of time.

"Advertisers follow consumers, and if you want to talk in sort of the parlance of advertising, you always need to build circulation," Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz told media assembled at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square for a September 2009 event. "By doing this very personalized approach, [we] get really good microinsights for our advertisers."

That sort of thinking has helped propel the integration of more and more features into social networking sites, but it also brings the companies that own those sites into ever-fiercer competition. Google Buzz represents the next phase of that competition, as does Microsoft's response.