Will Google Buzz Kill Facebook?

I’m reasonably confident that the answer to my oh-so-provocative headline is an emphatic no. However, I’m not sure that’s even the right question to ask.

With Google Buzz, Google seems to be launching a pretty straightforward social networking service through their Gmail application. I understand that social media is all the rage right now, but I’m not sure why Google thinks it can or should try to be a player in this space. The new Google Buzz does have some interesting features, and it incorporates popular services like Twitter and Flickr, along with Google services like Blogger and Google Talk. (You can learn more and watch a video here.) However, I am struck by a few things.

First, Google Buzz doesn’t really seem to do anything significant that Facebook in particular doesn’t do. That begs the question of why people would switch or add an incremental service to their social network. With more than 300 million global users, it seems that people are pretty successfully connecting with friends and family through Facebook. They would need a pretty compelling reason to use a new service.

Related to that point, Google Buzz doesn’t seem to interface with Facebook. You can manage Twitter, Flickr and some others through Google Buzz, but not the prohibitive favorite in the space. Prying people completely away from an established service service like Facebook may just be a prohibitive challenge for them.

Another thing that bothers me about the service is the fact that Google Buzz is more or less an add-on to an email client. For me personally, social media has reduced my need for and usage of email. My email account used to be my de facto social network, but it is no longer, and I have no desire to resurrect it as such. I do almost all of my personal communication with close friends and family through Facebook (not to mention text messaging). Email has become the place to do more formal, almost business-like, personal communication. Cramming a social application into an email account is kind of like putting wings on a car. We’ve all gotten pretty accustomed to using airplanes.

The main thing here is that Google Buzz is really just another hobby for Google’s engineers who are reported to be allowed to spend 20% of their time on pet projects. Maybe I’ll check it out if I find some time to play around with something that does a lot of things less effectively than something I already use all the time.

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