There is much to like about Google's new Buzz social network, but is it really a "Facebook killer" as some predict? Ultimately, users will decide, and to help we've collected five things to love about Buzz and five reasons Facebook may prevail.
The big issue: Do you need another social network, or are two networks one too many?
For business users, there is a related issue, and that involves wanting to be where your customers are and the value of keeping them in one place. Facebook business users may want to root for Buzz to fail.
I am a Buzz skeptic, but not immune to the service's considerable appeal. It may turn out that Buzz is better for business social networking than Facebook, especially once it becomes part of the paid Google Apps Premier Edition suite.
There is also something to be said for separating business and social networks across two different and non-connected services. That works in Google's favor.
Buzz's reliance on Gmail is both a blessing and a curse, effectively limiting membership in Google's network in a way Facebook doesn't require. I can use Facebook with any e-mail client I choose, while Google tries to make that choice for me.
Having played with Buzz for a bit more than a day, and based on a much longer relationship with Facebook, I've assembled some Pros and Cons for users to consider when thinking about Buzz.
Buzz, on day one, is a better and more elegant service than Facebook has become after six years. Some of this is because Facebook had to create its network from scratch and pioneered the category, giving it a lot of baggage to overcome at this point. Google, meanwhile, has the advantage of building atop Gmail and being able to appropriate good ideas from both Facebook and Twitter. I call this "second mover advantage."
Google Buzz is simple, elegant, and pretty fast. Buzz makes it easy to include photos and other media in posts, which is a win over Facebook. Google does not have the habit of making major changes just as users become comfortable with the previous changes. Facebook seems adrift; Google doesn't.
Google privacy beats Facebook privacy. Despite #1 below, Google generally gets good marks for protecting user data. Facebook has had a series of privacy blow-ups that have created considerable user distrust.
Buzz works inside Gmail. Having social networking integrated into an application most people live in--e-mail--makes it a more natural part of communicating, not a separate online destination and process. The Gmail users in your contact list are the basis of your community.
Buzz creates relationships automatically, which results in a social network that includes more of your existing friends, provided they use Gmail. Making networks automatically has pluses and minuses, but seems like a user benefit.
Unless you make changes, Buzz might make public the names of Gmail users you most often trade e-mail with. This is part of the process by which Buzz sets up automatic following for Buzz users. Google seems to not have Buzz privacy quite nailed down, which may be a reason to wait before using it.
Most of my Facebook contacts are not Gmail users and aren't likely to become Gmail users. That makes it unlikely they will ever become Buzz contacts and represents what may be the Achilles' heel of Google's new baby. Building Buzz atop Gmail is both genius and potential folly. Google needs an alternative, more Facebook-like user interface to offer users.