It was a little surprising that when Google+ launched, there was a section of posts from Google Buzz , the company’s ill-fated Twitter clone. Google had all but abandoned Google Buzz, but today they actually got around to abandoning it for real. Google will be killing off Buzz, as well as few other products as part of what it calls “A fall sweep.”
Google Buzz users on Tuesday should have received a rare email from Google regarding a settlement offer for a class action suit by Gmail users over privacy concerns (if not, check your SPAM box).
"Shortly after its [Google Buzz] launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and reached a settlement in this case," Google wrote in the above mentioned email.
"The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users' concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the Web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be," Google said.
This isn't a settlement where Gmail users receive cash, however "everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010."
The Court will decide on final approval of the settlement agreement on January 31, 2011.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave a speech in London today, and was predictably asked about a rumored Google social network. Ever the clever businessman, Schmidt simply replied, " That would be a product announcement, and I won’t say." So he's saying it's a product? Well, at least that's the way the interwebs are taking it.
Rumors have been swirling for the past few days that Google is working feverishly to rollout a Facebook competitor called Google Me. There are no real details on the service as of yet, but Google's track record in social isn't very good. Orkut has not seen wide spread use, and the Buzz messaging service opened to major privacy concerns. Whatever Google is working on, hopefully they are taking a different approach.
We'd place our money on this being some sort of expansion of Google Profiles, which have always felt underused. Maybe Buzz would find a new life as a service integrated into Google Me. For now, we'll just have to wait and see. If you have any theories, let us know.
Google has enabled Google Maps previews within Gmail and Buzz. Once the feature is enabled by the user, Gmail automatically generates previews of places mentioned in an e-mail. The feature can be turned on from the Google Labs tab under Gmail settings.
Though previews for locations anywhere in the world are supported when triggered by a Google Maps URL contained in the e-mail, they are restricted to the US when only the address and not the URL is mentioned. But support for addresses in other parts of the world can't be far off as Google is working on it.
As for Buzz, pasting a Google Maps link in the post box will “automatically fetch an image preview of that location that you can associate with your post.”
Google has come under heavy flak in recent times for what appears to be dwindling regard for people's privacy. It truly became conspicuous on the radar of privacy watchdogs with its Street View technology. A couple of months ago, it again caused a furore by choosing to launch Buzz, a social networking extension for its Gmail service, as an “opt-out” service.
The letter, dated April 19, is also signed by Stoddart's counterparts in France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom. The missive points to both Buzz and Street View as instances when Google launched a product “with such significant privacy issues.”
Stoddart has called on Google to ensure that its services honor fundamental privacy principles. The company has also been asked to outline ways in which it plans to ensure such conformity.
One of the questions surrounding Google Buzz for mobile was whether or not the search giant planned on using the app to replace Google Latitude. That isn't the case, and instead Google will try different points of integration between Google Latitude and the new Google Buzz for mobile application, eWeek.com claims to have heard from a Google product manager.
"Latitude is a friend-finding app. It's about a user continuously sharing location," said Steve Lee, product manager for Google Maps for mobile and Google Latitude. "Google Buzz is about creating conversations, and keeping up to date with friends and keeping your friends up to date about you. It lets you share photos of places where you're at. If I'm at this restaurant, I can take a photo of a meal, post it in a click, and friends can see it in Gmail and comment on it."
In other words, they're different apps with different goals, and according to Lee, Google is still investing in Latitude. But that's not all Google is doing.
"Down the road, there might be points of integration between Buzz and Latitude, but they are separate products, and have different use cases," Lee said.
Lee didn't get into details, but did note that Google is thinking of what apps it can build that have certain compelling use cases and how they might location enhance those apps.
Another social news voting system gets added to the web today as Yahoo opens up its Buzz to the public. Prior to the public release, only about 400 publishers could contribute new links to the service, though anyone could see them and vote buzz up or down what they consider to be the most/least interesting news stories.
The release comes with little fanfare or hype, an interesting move for a service that hopes to contend with similar sites like Digg and Reddit. Separating itself from the pack, Buzz's algorithms also analyze search engine popularity rather than remain purely community driven, and Yahoo's editors still program the Yahoo.com front page.
While it's far too early to predict how Buzz will fare, the social service could gain some traction both by leveraging other Yahoo communities, and by luring participation by having some of the most popular news items posted on its main page.