This week, you may have heard that Google introduced something called Buzz. If you are a Gmail user, you are probably signed up without even knowing it.
Before we go any further, a bit of background. I started being a dedicated Google user in 2000, when I was working as a research analyst for a small dotcom company I will not name here. It was at the time the best search engine available. Time progressed. I signed up for Orkut. I think I have two profiles there and I can’t figure out how to merge them, but I stopped caring some time ago. I have been part of blogging projects that required the use of Blogger. For over 2 years I have run my email through Gmail because it is convenient to access remotely via the web and my G1 Android phone (which I bought in the first few weeks it was available), and until recently the spam filtering of Gmail had been excellent. And about my G1, it does so much stuff that once I had a client surprised that it was also a phone!
Now about Gmail’s spam filtering. At some point in the last 6 months, it started to decide that I didn’t need certain emails. It decided that my electronic fax service was spam — thankfully this service stores faxes for 30 days so no permanent harm. It has at various points decided that some communications from my clients were spam. I have been reduced to going through the spam folder and trying to make sure it doesn’t get rid of things I need. This wastes my time every day, and I am still likely to miss an important email. Moreover, I think I am being punished for correcting the spam filter. “Oh, that’s not spam, is it? How about this one from an approved online drugstore? Is that not spam? How about this Russian bride wanting to meet you, surely you want to read that??” Pain. In. The. Butt.
Some people think Buzz is going to be a huge hit, a terrific win, a Twitter Killer with a side order of Facebook. Strangely enough, Orkut wasn’t enough to dislodge any of the various online communities, but hey. But here’s the killer part:
Google Buzz certainly isn’t groundbreaking, but it will achieve critical mass virtually overnight. Thanks to integration with Gmail, the new tool is in the eye-line of the millions of users who obsessively check their inboxes for new mail. ComScore pegged Gmail at 176.5 million unique visitors in December.
What’s more, Google Buzz uses data about those you frequently e-mail to automatically build a social network for you. Gone are the challenges of critical mass faced by virtually every new social networking service. In Google Buzz, your address book is your network.
That’s the benefit, but that’s also a huge problem. In fact, it’s a privacy nightmare for every Gmail user, especially for anyone who has someone they would like to avoid, perhaps someone they keep in the address book specifically so they know not to answer the phone if he/she calls. Even if the privacy concerns weren’t enough, there’s more reasons to want nothing whatsoever to do with this “service,” including the fact that it is yet another distraction from Getting Stuff Done.
Thanks to some Twitter friends (I’ve already thanked them online), I have found the way to disable Buzz. It’s non-obvious. From Gmail, if you click on the obnoxious multi-color Buzz icon, you end up on the Buzz page and have the option to, well, select your options. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page. Further. There, at the very bottom there’s a link to turn off Buzz and another option to turn off Chat.
Over the next 6 months, I will be migrating off Google products wherever possible. My sites are already WordPress and hosted elsewhere. I will in-source my email and use something like SpamAssassin to filter it. I never used Google Apps, so no migration is required there. I will buy an iPhone and stop griping about my crappy battery life (girl at the T-mobile store suggested turning off GPS, but I need that feature on for safety while I am out with clients). I may even use Bing.
Google, thanks for nothing. Or rather, thanks for blowing off a loyal customer of 10 years.
In Closing: I wouldn’t let you go without some obligatory health insurance reform items, now would I?; on bureaucracy and government; checklists prevent mistakes whether you are planning a trip or a major surgery; thanks fo AmericaBlog for putting us on the quiet bus; with the money lobbyists have spent they could have bought us all a pony, or actually done something useful; PayGo is back but will it work; the Euro may well be doomed; and Computer Engineer Barbie may have a laptop, smart phone, bluetooth headset, quirky geeky fashions, and cool librarian-type glasses, but if she’s going to make a living in the computer room, she needs a lot more caffeine.