Google definitely generated some buzz with Buzz though most people are optimistic but cautious about the company's latest social product. Worse yet, some of the buzz is downright negative, but considering who it's coming from, it's not much of a surprise. Not long after Google announced its latest social network / social aggregator, most of its big competitors, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL, were quick to point out that they've had similar offerings for quite some time. And the best part is, they're right.
For a quick recap, Google Buzz aims to center your social web around Gmail by bringing in content and activities from your friends from various third-party networks and from Buzz itself. It also lets you share status updates, links, photos and other stuff with the world or just your closest friends. It's certainly not a new concept and some features have indeed been available in competing products.
"Busy people don’t want another social network, what they want is the convenience of aggregation. We’ve done that. Hotmail customers have benefitted from Microsoft working with Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and 75 other partners since 2008," a Microsoft exec said in response to Google's announcement.
Yahoo has an even better claim. The company has had a status update tool, believe it or not, it's called Yahoo Update, which has been up for more than a year now. Yahoo Update has been integrated in Yahoo Mail, Messenger, the homepage and other proprieties. The tool enables you to see what your contacts are up to on a big number of external sites and services and also enables you to post status updates.
Moving on, AOL has had Lifestream, a tool very much like Yahoo Update which, you guessed it, also aggregates the status and activity updates of your friends from various third-party sites. In fact, AOL has just announced that it's adding the feature to AOL Mail, coincidentally, just hours after Google Buzz was launched.
All three companies have legitimate claims, but there are quite a few differences in Google's approach. Buzz doesn't just want to be an aggregator, it wants to become the center of your social web, the tool which connects you to your friends and brings up the most relevant content from them. It also has a strong social networking component though less emphasized and, perhaps its biggest asset, the geolocation feature.
But there's one company, former company to be precise, which could trump all these claims, Friendfeed. The social web aggregator shares more than a slight resemblance with Google Buzz. Not that Google is trying to hide it, but anyone who has used Friendfeed will immediately see just how much Buzz borrows from it. If there's anyone who should raise the 'me first' flag, it should be it.
The fact is though, Friendfeed has given up, its user base has been shrinking since Facebook acquired the company and the service failed to gain any mainstream traction. It remains to be seen if Buzz is able to, but it has a good chance as any. And if there's one thing that Facebook taught us is that you don't have to be the first, you don't even have to be original, you may not even have to have the best product to win. Friendster, MySpace and countless others know this too well.