As you may have noticed by now Google Buzz the useful but disastrously deployed Google social stream tool that used to live within the Googlemail interface (and within Google Profiles) is no more. This is part of a widespread series of consolidations Google have been making to their social media and collaboration tools (as well as the closure of Google Labs), the most notable of which has been their controversial rebrand of services to a new sharp/Google+ inspired look and feel.
Google Buzz was built on the Friendfeed notion of the value of social activity streams – you could feed your blog, tweets, images etc. in automatically and then like or comment on others’ activity. That concept now tends to go by the name “lifestreaming” as that seems to capture the idea nicely though of course it is only a small portion of “life” that is streamed in such tools.
The benefit of Google Buzz, Friendfeed and similar systems is that you can have a profile that automatically updates with key content and can then opt in to further interactivity – discussions with friends and contacts, follow up messages etc. However the downside to these tools is that you are not driven to login regularly, to engage in more discussion (rather than one way narrowcasting or broadcasting of content) and you may not use that site as your primary access to any of your contacts updates. As the social networking wars hot up between Google+ and Facebook that hands off updating is losing appeal to social media site operators – anyone accessing a site through a third party app or automatically updating a site via RSS does not need to login, look at advertising on the site, and may not be as likely to stay on site for a long time. It was interesting that Google+ launched as a site that wants you to post updates directly. Just a short while later Facebook have just dropped one of their longer standing features – the Facebook Notes importer driven, presumably, by similar motivations.
The loss of Facebook Notes importing will be particularly noticable for Page administrators who are used to being able to generate automatically updated content through blog posts or Twitter feeds. Individuals may not login and engage if they can import all their updates automatically but organisations are very different beasts: blogs tend to be updated more frequently, activity tends to be checked in a different and more proactive way than personal comments and the importer is used far more widely because of this. It will be interesting to see how page owners adapt to the change – we’ll certainly be switching tack for a few of our Facebook pages here to accommodate the change although the timing for this is good as Google+ pages have just launched so it is likely that we can apply similar updating process to both spaces at least in the short term.
However the loss of automatic updates does not mean the lifestream (a term I first came across via the WordPress plugin of the same name) is dead. Mobile social media usage is driving more aggregation – who wants to open 5 apps every time one looks at their phone – with tools like AOL’s Lifestream App, Apples iOS Notifications Centre, and indeed the sorts of social bookmarking-like functionality of Facebook’s own social newspaper reading apps. Blogs too seem likely to hold strong in light of the Facebook Notes changes/wider importing restrictions – some will surely switch to using Notes as a blog (which many users already do), many others will find email subscription a strong alternative and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the linkage between Google+ and Google Reader strengthening (dealing with RSS without a simple UI remains a little too techie for many blog readers).
Also in this space Facebook have launched Timeline – a way to add a narrative arc to your shared materials that reflects a more curated lifestream approach – or perhaps a more visual and social version of blogging. It will be interesting to see how that takes off as it is simultaneously quite appealing and clearly an effort to ensure lock-in to Facebook through investment of time, energy and emotional memory. As talk of the “happy cloud” and reputation management online become more foregrounded it will be particularly interesting to see how users edit their “private activity log” and deal with editing former partners, friends, colleagues etc. in/out of their personal life stories.
- Google TakeOut – an elegant mechanism download and archive Google data, including Buzz content
- Larry Page’s July 2011 Quarterly Earnings Call statement which flagged up consolidation efforts
- Google+ adds YouTube streaming and new Google+ Chrome Plugin launched
- Google+ has also recently added some quite Google Wave-ish “ripples” conversation tracking and photo editing which complements the recent YouTube video editing release
- Facebook enable “subscribe” button for both people and pages and clearer privacy/sharing options to support this
- Facebook have responded to the easier friend list creation process in Google+ by launching “smart” lists to automatically organise friends
- Google+ Pages will not allow contests and competitions – this is similar to the stance at Facebook where promotions must be via Apps.
- Mashable’s guide to activating the Developer preview of Facebook Timeline