Search players have been dancing around the margins of social media for the past several months. Google and Bing have been integrating social media – such as blogs, Twitter and ratings from sites like Yelp – into search results. Anyone who’s playing in the space has realized this is a mere dipping of their toes into the water.
This week, Google made a considerably bigger splash.
The social networks as they exist today represent a significant departure from the way the Web worked in its early years. We’ve moved from a time where a relatively limited number of people published information online to one in which anyone can put information out there and real-time, consumer-generated information is the next great frontier of the Web.
Of course when I say “relatively limited,” I still mean there were millions of users and sites. Search engines emerged as the de facto approach to finding what you needed.
Now, the problem of finding the relevant information that exists online is much, much more challenging. Social networks began as a way to focus on people with whom you have a connection or common interest. If you have a group of dozens or even a few hundred people, you can follow what they share relatively easily. Personally, I’ve flown far past that point. I follow nearly 2,000 people on Twitter, a few hundred on Facebook and a few hundred on LinkedIn. And I’ve rejected requests to a slew of other networks.
Google took the first step yesterday to tame this for me in the way that Google does. They’ve become an intelligent aggregator of all of this content with their new service, Buzz.
Buzz builds off of existing Google platforms, most notably the Gmail email platform and Google maps, and pulls content seamlessly from other Google properties, such as Picasa, as well as unaffiliated services like Twitter and to some extent Facebook.
You can look at Buzz in a variety of ways.
- Buzz begins to focus search around your personal network.
- Buzz could be yet another set in the commoditization of the underlying messaging networks – what is Twitter, for instance, if no one ever goes to the Twitter.com site in the future?
- Buzz is a solution to social network fatigue – while not the first player to pull information from various social networks into a single view (applications like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite have done this for some time) there is an attempt to organize the information to create an experience that is unique to Buzz.
- Buzz is another attempt to get traction in location-aware applications – the first mention of Buzz that I saw was in an update to Google Maps on my Droid. Google’s Latitude service, while interesting, has failed to gain the wide adoption seen by solutions like Four Square. Perhaps Buzz becomes the killer app for location awareness that Google has been looking for.
In all likelihood, Buzz is a beginning. The beginning of Google getting serious about the social Web with much more yet to come.