Does Google Buzz have enough bite?
Just when you thought you couldn't possibly handle another social media service, Google, the king of this here Internet, had to go ahead and ruin it for you with its first true foray into the market: Google Buzz.
So what is Google Buzz?
Well, think of it as a more fleshed-out Twitter with the look of your Facebook news feed; where your tweets are contained to only 140 characters and rich media has to be linked in that small character limit, photos and videos are seen in full in your Buzz stream, and there's no apparent character limit. Similar to Facebook, users have the ability to comment on and like each entry. It's contained within one's Gmail account.
In the end, it's really just another place to share links and converse with friends.
Because Google set it up out of the gate for Gmail users and assigned followers to you and you to followers based on how often you e-mail each other, it teased people into using it. While some media members scoffed at this because personal Gmail contacts were in some cases anonymous sources who were viewable to other contacts within Buzz, this also made it a rousing success. In its first two days running last week, Buzz already had more than 9 million posts and comments.
So, is this the next place we can expect athletes to show us photos of their new haircut or tell us how they felt after a game, something Twitter, and to a lesser extent, Facebook, has cornered the market on?
For now, don't count on it.
Buzz might have a lot going for it otherwise, but Twitter is hard to top when it comes to ease of use and quick conversation. Buzz does have similar traits, and there's a mobile version as well, but with Twitter already so ingrained in countless athletes' lives, it's hard to see everyone jumping ship, or even adding it to their Web repertoire.
And with many athletes concerned with their popularity and number of followers, why start over on a follower count when some have already surpassed 1 million on Twitter?
If you're a serial Gmail user who keeps it open all day for its chat function and instant access to new e-mail -- as many do during the workday -- the Buzz user experience is really just an extension of that; it's built right into Gmail. But athletes' jobs don't really lend themselves to nine-hour-a-day stretches of Internet use; they're constantly on the go. And with Twitter being so simple to use from a phone, again, it's hard to see athletes abandoning it.
Since it's new, there's also the simple fact of athletes not using it because they don't know about it. When contacted about Google Buzz, Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett said he was unfamiliar with it. But after watching a video about it, he described it as "cool," and says he'll give it a test spin soon.
But where Buzz might make some sense in the sports realm is with teams, leagues and organizations.
As an example: say the NBA creates a Gmail account, opts-in on a public profile page visible to the entire Web -- something necessary to post on Buzz -- and starts running its Buzz account similar to its Facebook or Twitter account by posting links of interest, video, photos and discussion points.
There's utility in this in the sense that it continues to build its brand and promote the league under the Google umbrella, and for Gmail users who like to keep only one tab or application open, they can get their NBA fix without having to leave their e-mail or chats.
So if teams and leagues look at Buzz as another sounding board to disseminate information to the masses, it could be useful to them.
But don't expect athletes to flock to it anytime soon.
Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.