Google has officially started a war. With the launch of their life-streaming product this week, Buzz, competitors with established mail products such as Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL are now officially on notice. Get social – fast.
Buzz is Google’s response to Twitter. For those of you that have tried the product, you will quickly see that the best part about Buzz is the fact that it is integrated with Gmail. Aside from that, there is no massive innovation relative to established ‘Lifestream’ products like Facebook and Twitter that enable you to socialize around user’s activities. You can follow people’s updates, they can follow you, yadda yadda. I will say, however, it was very slick how they pre-populate some of that information based on your Google Profile/Mail. All in all, it was a smart move by Google to launch it via Gmail as it is a great enhancement to their communication suite (mail, chat).
Perhaps even more important than the product news, is the fire that this news has started. For some time, folks in the social space have been waiting for the responses of GYM (goog/yhoo/msft) to the growing threat of Facebook. Many have postulated (including this camper) that the best way to attack Facebook is from a position of strength in the communication space – the Inbox. Yahoo, for instance, has the basis for a massive social network via it’s hundreds of millions of email users and chat capabilities. It goes without saying that their distribution capability via this channel is the logical place to begin ‘going social.’ In theory, if Yahoo launched an elegant product via this channel it could be a real threat to Facebook. That said, although there have been rumblings around Yahoo about an Inbox 2.0 strategy for some time, the rubber has never quite hit the road. With this launch, however, the gauntlet was officially thrown down by Google.
Given that Facebook is almost certainly preparing for a public offering within the year, I would anticipate that Google continues its war path in the social space via acquisitions a la Q&A company Aardvark and smart hires like Joe Smarr. Moreover, I would expect similar Inbox 2.0 tactics from MSFT and YHOO in the coming year. The biggest threat to Facebook and Twitter are incumbents launching features using Connect, or new products using Connect, that will ultimately be a simpler experience for the masses.