Buzz not competing with Facebook et al?

Google Buzz

Google has moved to distance Buzz from social networking giants Facebook and Twitter after a difficult opening fortnight for the fledgling platform.

Bradley Horowitz, the search giant's vice president of product management, told eWeek that Buzz creates "a new category of communication" that isn't currently met by existing services.

After a launch plagued by privacy concerns, usability frustrations and forced updates, Horowitz nonetheless said the combination of Google's strong underpinning infrastructure and third-party support would see Buzz emerge is a mature social platform in its own right.

Horowitz stated emphatically that Buzz was "absolutely not" a competitor to Facebook and Twitter, despite much of the media defining it as exactly that in initial reports.

"This is creating a new category of communication," Horowitz said. "It's filling a niche which is currently not met in the market.

Speaking last week, Horowitz told eWeek that early signs suggested Buzz was developing naturally as a "conversational" medium. "It's hard to create a trend line or extrapolate too much from six days of use, but certainly conversation and the conversational web is a place where Buzz has excelled. I think it is unique and offers a compelling interesting experience," he said.

However, despite Horowitz's broadly optimistic outlook, it's been a long two weeks for Google and it has been dogged by controversy all the way.

Google launched Buzz on 9 February, promising a product that would give users a ready made circle of friends based on their Gmail account, with which they could share content, post status updates and the like.

However, the ink had barely dried on the press release announcing Buzz when complaints started rolling in. Buzz formed its ready made friends list by simply taking the most commonly emailed contacts within Gmail, and made their details known to each other unless you told it not to.

Amid a storm of criticism Google was forced to backtrack twice, first by making it easier to remove publicly available details and then by scrapping the auto-generated setup completely.

It has since admitted it should have tested Buzz more widely before releasing it, saying many users were "rightfully upset".

"We're very early in this space. This was one of our first big attempts," product manager Todd Jackson told the BBC.

If there's one comparison with Facebook that Google will draw heart from, however, it's that despite being plagued by its own controversies at virtually every turn, Facebook has still managed to build a user base of more than 350 million.