Widgets Magazine

Students weigh in on Google’s newest “Buzz”

BECCA DEL MONTE/The Stanford Daily

For Stanford users of the ubiquitous Gmail, there’s a new buzzword in town.

Google, the Mountain View-based search engine giant founded by two Stanford students, on Tuesday fixed its eyes on breaking into the social networking scene with its newest feature: Buzz, which the company bills as “a new way to start conversations” in Gmail by sharing status updates, photos, videos and content from other Web sites like Twitter and Flickr.

Buzz, which now appears in Gmail users’ left-hand menu, was made accessible to all users this week.

“Increasingly, it’s becoming harder and harder to make sense and find the signal in the noise,” said Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president of product management, at a press conference Tuesday announcing the new application.

At Stanford, RJ Walsh ’11, a resident computer consultant (RCC) in Cedro, said he was “a little disappointed” with Google’s newest product.

“It’s still kind of early to tell, but at this point, it’s really just adding a social network to the list of networks I’m already on,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see if it adds any real value for me in the future. As of right now, it’s one more thing to add to the equation.”

Conspicuously missing are updates from Facebook, Google’s top competitor in the social networking field, thus calling into question how successful the Gmail feed will be, as Facebook boasts 400 million members worldwide.

“As far as offering you features, they didn’t really do anything that Facebook and Twitter haven’t already done,” Walsh said.

Rob Balian ’11, the RCC in Jerry, began using Buzz on Wednesday. He said he finds Buzz different because Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter require the “incremental work” of finding friends.

“On Facebook, there are the 10 to 20 percent of friends that you actually talk to, and the rest are random people that you don’t really care what they post,” Balian said.

Buzz sends posts directly to the user’s inbox and recommends posts from people outside of one’s Internet social circle. A mobile version is also available.

Balian said that Buzz is easy because it sends posts directly to one’s inbox, and that Google has done “a pretty good job” knowing who he will care about.

“All my friends are already on [Buzz],” he said. “I follow people that I care about and chat with the most, and they’re already posting stuff.”
He said he anticipates that Buzz will play a large role for users looking to use a social network solely for tightly-knit groups.

“It’s a nice thing for your very close social network, when you’re not really looking to expand your social network, but looking to keep in touch with what you’ve already got,” Balian added.

Walsh agreed that the auto-follow feature is the best way for Buzz to separate itself from current social networking sites.

“It figures out your social network for you,” he said. “This combats the initial ‘building a social network’ issue by adding people in – you don’t frustrate users who don’t want to go through the process of finding friends over and over again.”

Although disappointed, Walsh said to take initial feelings “with a grain of salt.” Both he and Balian agreed that new features would probably help better define Buzz and establish its long-term presence in social networking.