The Buzz Kill

Buzz. There it is. With quite some publications Google launched its twitter/facebook rival. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Google. I am not a fan of most of their products, but, they often are not bad or they try to ripple the water in the pond, having other companies who already settled a bit go back to their research departments again. For example, if it wasn’t for Google Docs, we would probably not get an Office Live right now. And if it weren’t for Picasa, it would not deliver us the online version of Photoshop.

But on the other hand, for me it is the attitude that turns me off to Google. A bit like Apple. The products are more often than not quite good, but it is the brand that actually turns me off. There is too much a type of personality hooked up to the products; you are hip if you use their products. Well, I am 34 years old, father of a 5 year old daughter. I read Tinkerbell stories at night, we have an antique house and I drive my beloved 2000 Lincoln Continental. I am not hip. I don’t care to be hip. That time is over for me. I rather have something that does what it promises to do. Money starts to have value suddenly, so when I pay for something, I want to see something in return. Worse, I am even prepared to value functionality. So, I am prepared to pay for things even if there are free alternatives. For example, I pay a monthly amount for my blog here on TypePad. True, they have a free version, but I want an ad-free blog, and knowing that if something doesn’t work, I can call someone and curse until it is solved (alright, I will not curse, but look really angry when I am on the phone while being polite). I pay for Windows, Office, Creative Suite. With practically all software, I know what I am getting, and I find it worth the price.

Then there is free. And that might be really good. I have to admit, I start to like twitter. I am using ModelMayhem for the photography business. Besides IE, I use FireFox and Opera. Free and free. But, I do have the idea always that if free is what I pay for it, I also get something that is free. Which means, less than cheap. And that means, it can be good, it can be bad. Even on a flea-market I have to pay for crap. So what kind of guarantee do you have with free?

And I think Google has shown that perfectly well with Buzz. Let me say, I don’t think Buzz is a terrible product. I think Google should have thought well before putting it into the market. They have made a horrible mistake by crossing the privacy boundaries of its users. In car terms that would be a mistake that Toyota accidentally made with their acceleration. Maybe not intentionally a mistake, but a mistake nonetheless that has consequences. But also, is it worth it? Is it worth using another social network for the price of privacy? Is google to become for the Internet what banks are for the financial system? I mean, are they now so big we just have to put up with whatever they want to do?

Personally, I think it would be good if one social network topples over. Preferably one large as Google Buzz. Why? It would clean up the market, it would give other social networks suddenly the idea that servicing millions of people need to be done with care. You have to build not only technically, but also ethically a good product. And the problem is, if such a service is free, a company has not that obligation to its users. If they now decide to quit, there is nothing anybody can do. Myspace, ICQ, Yahoo!, all the networks that once were so hip are not so much anymore. But they just went through a live-cycle, which online is not that long anyway. They are still around though. But if a social network falls down, it makes everyone aware who wants to build one, that it is risky business. Suddenly it will require more and more expertise, more skills, and more investment to set something good up, just like in any market.

Again, this is purely my opinion. Based on an almost 15-year carreer in IT and online development.


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