Google’s Buzz looks like the first volley in what might turn into a war with Facebook. At least, we have to wonder if that’s the case, because the one glaring element missing is any connectivity at all with Facebook. Of course, it could always come later, and we have to assume it will. I mean, heck, everything interfaces with Facebook, doesn’t it? But nobody seems to know yet. Buzz does seem to make it very easy to integrate posts, photos and videos from Twitter, Picasa and Flickr. But the Google folks aren’t making it nearly so easy to update other systems. Photos uploaded go into Picasa, Google’s photo sharing product. But your Buzzes (is that what we’ll call them?) won’t go to Twitter, probably because they’d have to find a way to go from the Buzz capacity (seemingly unlimited) to the 140-word Twitter limit.
If Buzz catches on, the ability to accommodate longer messages and public conversations will offer an enticing alternative to Facebook. Whether it will have the broadcasting capabilities of Twitter via something like lists or tags has yet to be seen.
Further muddying the water is the rumor that Facebook is getting ready to roll out an email service that, like Gmail, will support pop and imap. Obviously, they’re hoping that Facebook’s growing role as an all-purpose communications hub will give Facebook email some legs. But Gmail has a lot of advantages. It’s a mature, excellent product that is more intuitive than previous email systems. But more importantly, a Gmail address is increasingly playing a central role in business use, with calendar and directory functions that sync easily with Outlook (for a fraction of the cost of an Exchange server), Google Analytics and Google’s growing array of applications. Google’s Android system for handsets is an important part of this strategy, keeping the handset in sync with Google contacts and calendar in real time. (I’ve never even plugged my Android into my PC except to charge it.)
Perhaps most important is the question of whether anybody on Facebook needs another email address. Likewise, people will ask whether Gmail users need another social network. This may get interesting.