Google’s odd stumbles in social networking

by , under reviews

I admit it. I love Google. I use Google as my main search engine and use Gmail as my primary email. So any time that Google announces a new product, I give them a shot.

It’s hard to deny that Google has helped revolutionize the way we use the internet. It simplified the search engine, and seemed to dig deeper into the internet than pre-existing search engines. Though webmail certainly predated Gmail, they offered features that most webmail only offered their paying users- giant storage space, built in chat, easy to use filters, searches and mail forwarding.

So when it was announced that Google had the next big thing, Google Wave- I certainly waited eagerly. What was it? What would it do? As soon as the page went up for invitations to the beta, I submitted my email address and even begged friends for a nomination. I read reviews and thought that it must be the same sort of reviewers who automatically hate anything from Apple because they use PCs (or those who’ve joined the Cult of Mac and endlessly spout misleading facts to belittle PC users). Then, I was in.

I opened up my start page to see… a lot of columns and sub-windows and no real explanation on how to use it. I watched the videos, and was still baffled about how this was supposed to completely change the way we use the internet. To be certain, it gave OpenSource users a better way to manage projects than you can in Microsoft Office. You can easily set waves for different portions, and amass videos, documents, links and messages to fill it out.

But beyond that (and possibly using it to edit or co-author something), I really couldn’t see how I could use it in my daily life. I tried to use it for Christmas shopping, but The Husband didn’t get his invitation in time for Christmas. I’m going to revisit it, but for me, it’s a great idea that just isn’t what’s needed.

When Google Buzz was announced, I was eager. And just as soon as it popped up in my Gmail, I set it up. Essentially, Buzz is Google’s answer to Twitter and Facebook. You can post short status messages to friends, which they can like and comment on (just like Facebook). You can post to it automatically from image sites like Picasa and Flickr, or video from YouTube. And unlike Twitter or Facebook you can easily link a post or email it.

However, there lies one large problem with Buzz. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, you need to have a Gmail account for Buzz. Not only that, the easiest way to find someone is to have their email address. While yes, you can search by name- you’re going to have to hope that they used their real name in the search, have a picture that’s helpful or left enough breadcrumbs in their profile to be discovered.

Admittedly, adding by email address makes it a quick and easy startup with your friends. However, one of my favorite aspects of Twitter is that I can follow anyone I like- news agencies, celebrities, authors, chefs. And I do. I can search by their user name (or public name given) and look at a profile to confirm that I’m adding who I want to add. Not only that, Twitter verifies celebrities- so I know that it’s who they say they are, as opposed to someone being clever and renaming themself in their Buzz profile. Not only that, because Twitter allows you to assign yourself a username, I can rename safely anonymous if I so choose. While yes, I could simply set up a gmail with some cute name, or be vague in a profile- it does limit connecting with strangers while being anonymous.

Buzz seems like a fun toy, but I can’t see it replacing Facebook or Twitter in my life.

What are your thoughts?