Google Buzz Bites the Dust

Goodbye, Google Buzz. The social messaging platform, which was meant to rival Twitter, is being tossed aside by Google in an effort to slim down.

Google Buzz launched in February 2010 as a way to share status updates, photos, videos, and links with friends through Gmail. The secret sauce was a “page rank” algorithm that determined which status updates should be featured prominently and which ones should be collapsed. Google Buzz also mined users’ Gmail contacts and set users up to automatically follow the people they e-mailed most.

Unfortunately for Google, this turned out to be a privacy nightmare. By default, users’ follower lists were public, revealing their most frequent e-mail contacts to the world. Google Buzz also lacked a way to block people who didn’t have public profiles at first.

Although Google apologized and fixed these problems, the network’s reputation was already damaged. The fiasco even brought complaints from the Federal Communications Commission, forcing a settlement in which Google agreed to comprehensive, company-wide privacy measures.

Even if Google Buzz hadn’t botched privacy, it still probably would’ve failed. The service did little to differentiate from Facebook or Twitter, and users quickly lost interest.

When Google+ launched in June, Google Buzz was assumed to be dead. Now it’s official. Google+ is off to a much better start, with 40 million members, so it’s unlikely that Google will give up on its newest social network so easily.

Google killed several other projects in addition to Google Buzz as part of a “fall sweep,” including the social features in iGoogle and Jaiku, another Twitter-like service that Google acquired in 2007. Those services will shut down on January 15, and Google Buzz will be gone in a few weeks.

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