Google Buzz copied FriendFeed’s worst features, why?

OK, now I’ve had a bit of time to play with Google Buzz and everywhere I look I see a badly-executed copy of FriendFeed.

With two important exceptions:

1. Google Buzz actually has a lot of users and much better information flowing through its veins. There’s a reason that FriendFeed doesn’t have many users: it has some very anti-user features that retard user adoption (back when I was excited about FriendFeed I kept hoping that FriendFeed was going to fix some of their issues).
2. It has pretty nice location features built in, especially if you use Google Maps on Android.

But, they made some horrid mistakes. Let’s detail them:

1. They are infatuated with real time flow (items flow down my screen) but unlike FriendFeed they didn’t give you an option to turn that off. For users who are following a lot of people, like me, that makes Google Buzz unusable.
2. They love comments, but that leads to the chat room problem I talked about earlier. But Google Buzz actually made comments worse than FriendFeed did. They didn’t give us moderation capabilities. They don’t let you block people right from comments like FriendFeed did.
3. Unlike FriendFeed they don’t let you group your friends into lists. This makes using it with more than small groups very frustrating and pushes me back to Twitter where list support is an important part of my experience now.
4. They didn’t give us any filtering capabilities. FriendFeed got very close to having good filtering with its real time search engine that let you do things like “show me all items with the word ‘Obama’ but only show me items that have four likes or more.” That was very powerful, Google hasn’t even tried yet to do real time search or filtering like this.
5. Adding friends is frustrating, especially for someone who is getting added by hundreds of people a day. Google could really have innovated here, but they didn’t add anything Twitter or FriendFeed doesn’t have.
6. On Google Buzz, as with FriendFeed, A-list users get too much engagement and attention and that keeps putting their posts at the top of the feed. Google copied FriendFeed’s worst feature, that where items that get engagement keep popping to the top. I desperately want a strict reverse-chronological feed so I can just see items once, and not 300 times as they get engaged with.
7. They copied FriendFeed’s like feature, but didn’t do the most important thing: let me see all the likes by a single person. Over on FriendFeed I can see what Mike Arrington has liked, or commented on. I can’t do that in Google Buzz.
8. I turned off bringing Tweets and FriendFeed items into Google Buzz. Why? Because unlike on FriendFeed my readers can’t turn off just my Tweets. That makes Google Buzz very noisy.
9. They copied FriendFeed’s second worst feature: that comments bring people into my view that I don’t know, don’t care about, and Google Buzz gave me even fewer ways to control or moderate that. I wish there were a way to hide all comments until I want to see comments, for instance.
10. They also copied FriendFeed’s lack of curation features. For instance, Google Buzz has no way to bundle their items together into a single URL.
11. They copied the worst part of FriendFeed’s UI: the boring look but didn’t copy FriendFeed’s best part of the UI, the clean and simple feed. I keep getting boxes and other crap in my feed which reduces the number of items on my screen.
12. They copied the photo feature from FriendFeed, but, like FriendFeed, didn’t give me any control over size of images or anything else, either.

As I type this I’m at 37,000 feet and watching CNN. On CNN they showed off that Google Buzz is hard to use. Well, duh. They copied FriendFeed’s worst features and didn’t innovate.

And I won’t even get into all the privacy issues others had with earlier versions of Google Buzz.

So, Google, why did you copy FriendFeed’s worst features? Is there any way we can work together to find a better system? I really find Twitter and Facebook lacking too, and keep hoping someone brings out a dramatically better system but haven’t seen it yet.

The world needs a curation system, for instance. But until you stop copying other systems’ worst features I don’t feel you’ll even understand what users want.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

102 thoughts on “Google Buzz copied FriendFeed’s worst features, why?

  1. Not judgemental at all are we lol…

    I like Apple (OSX and iPods specifically), but my next phone will be an Android. I am not loyal to Apple, I am only loyal to the company that provides the best product. If Microsoft created something truly incredible I would favour them. I really like Google as they have created some great products (Google maps and google search). You are a bigoted buffoon.

  2. Not judgemental at all are we lol…

    I like Apple (OSX and iPods specifically), but my next phone will be an Android. I am not loyal to Apple, I am only loyal to the company that provides the best product. If Microsoft created something truly incredible I would favour them. I really like Google as they have created some great products (Google maps and google search). You are a bigoted buffoon.

  3. Having similar experience. Google, give us a way to:
    1. organize buzz with labels. I don't want to miss important private buzzes.
    2. collapse buzzes without muting

  4. I agree with cashwilliams. I've missed quite a few important buzzes because of the noise. Even people that sent me private buzzes got lost in the mix. Does anyone know how to have private buzzes stand out from the crowd?

  5. After using Buzz for I while I think it is a mess. There are too few features to help me sort out what I am seeing and how to go about it. Comments should be considered so important to make a buzz pop up on the top. It doesn't help me communicate any better.

  6. Robert,
    wondering if you have heard of a user losing most of their followers. I followed about 50 on day 1 of buzz, you being one. You followed back, and you are one of about 6 who stayed in my list of people following me. I don't know what happened to the other 40 or so. I emailed a few friends who I knew had been following, and they Refollowed. But I would like to find out what connection was lost. Any suggestions on who to ask?

  7. I think Google buzz is a bit late on the whole social networking site scene but it might have a chance if they add new and not-so-so apps that can help give buzz to Google Buzz.

  8. My feeling is that, unlike FriendFeed, Google will address these issues. I have no proof of this, but GMail and Google Maps have improved over time and listened to user ideas. It hasn't been perfect, but hopefully the open side of Google will push Buzz into an area of innovation.

    FriendFeed has a much smaller development team and a much smaller active user base (this feeling based on projected growth as well). With the amount of user force behind Buzz, and the developer expertise and availability (not to mention media pressure from good people like you, Scoble), Buzz will listen to the advice of the users.

    That being said, yeah… they didn't do a good job with their first release. It's far below what I expected from them. Was this rushed for a particular reason?

  9. One of the things that concerns me about Buzz is —> where do those comments go? So here we have this blog post. We are all discussing this blog post and this is where the comments should stay so they are with the original material. If you then Buzz this post and then have another lord knows how many comments, that all get lost because ultimately where does the Buzz go? Do you search for the Buzz to find it? How does one know it was Buzzed? It could be Buzzed by tons of people with comments flying around everywhere. Not to mention, why should Google own all this data as comments when it belongs on the blog really. Robert what do you think of this as a blogger? (oh and fantastic post btw :) )

  10. Google Buzz is way better than FriendFeed for one reason: it has users. Remember, Twitter didn't have the most features, but it won. Why? Because the users stuck with it instead of moving to Jaiku or Pownce.

  11. I totally agree. They could have come out with something innovative and a game changer. Although personally I love Buzz because I'm Gmail a lot and I find it easy to interact with.

    My problem with it is that they didn't think it through. Yes, it's Release 1, but they as Robert talked about here, they had a roadmap of what TO DO and what NOT TO DO. They chose the later. Case in point, the privacy issues. You would have thought they saw the problems FaceBook had.

    Ultimately I think it will get better, but it could have been Great right out the door.

  12. I somehow think Buzz is more about teaching people to take up Wave rather than competing with Twitter/Facebook/Friendfeed. Any thoughts on that? Buzz seems to work well if i use it for a closed group, say my team. Adding Buzz to Google Apps would be awesome for so many of us. Stuff like Salesforce Chatter go for a toss.

  13. IMO, Buzz is going to have a hard time getting lots of users if I can’t follow people who don’t have Gmail accounts. There needs to be a stand alone app. I may have lots of friends, but very few are Gmail users and there is little chance I will be able to convince any or all of them to start using Gmail, just for the social networking. I already tried that when I started using Google Talk.

  14. Perhaps they did. Most of the problems you mention only become problems once you have a bunch of friends. I would bet in their testing, none of the googlers testing it out had as many friends as you currently do; they goofed, and instead of fixing *your* user experience, they probably focused on the user experience that they could test for and created an awesome information flow and location based features.

  15. I think Google did a brilliant move. They understood that they are behind on the real-time game & they better get moving before the train leaves the station, so what do you do?
    Start running in the same direction everyone else is running (copy), after a while they’ll learn the tricks & start improving.
    For now they are collecting data & learning real-time web.
    Microsoft should do the same, but I think they have a more basic problem, they still haven’t figured this whole web thing…

  16. This is like ADHD tech. Within 24 hours it was declared as WAYYYYY better than Friendfeed and now it’s a piece of junk.

    I sincerely hope Google aren’t making real-time changes based on Robert’s inability to evaluate something properly.

  17. This may just be me needing time to adjust but I hate seeing unread items in my gmail and buzz sits there needing me to look at it due to a comment from someone I don't even know.

    With Twitter and Facebook I am able to log in when I want but I need my email pretty much all of the time.

  18. Good point about block mgmt. Then again, NONE of the major social services have grasped this issue. Neither have they grasped the speed/only-1-click on important actions issue. Twitter has at least gotten a bit better about the latter in recent revisions.

  19. Turn on keyboard shortcuts in gmail, and hit 'm' on the current Buzz post to mute. Now if only it would hide the post faster, rather than doing that cutesy three second fade…

  20. Thank goodness it isn't just me that thinks Google Buzz is just a poor imitation of FriendFeed. I happened to log into a gmail account I rarely even look at and declined the Google Buzz invitation and they stuck it in the account anyway.

    Does anyone else find it curious that Facebook bought FriendFeed, didn't integrate it (as far as I've heard) and now something very similar shows up as Google Buzz?

    Robert is there any chance you could get someone to design the perfect independent Social Networking site that incorporates your input and targeted advertising that would benefit both businesses and consumers?

  21. Thank goodness it isn't just me that thinks Google Buzz is just a poor imitation of FriendFeed. I happened to log into a gmail account I rarely even look at and declined the Google Buzz invitation and they stuck it in the account anyway.

    Does anyone else find it curious that Facebook bought FriendFeed, didn't integrate it (as far as I've heard) and now something very similar shows up as Google Buzz?

    Robert is there any chance you could get someone to design the perfect independent Social Networking site that incorporates your input and targeted advertising that would benefit both businesses and consumers?

  22. Robert, I agree that Friendfeed is more complete than Buzz.

    However, one should not forget that most of the users on Friendfeed are early adopters.
    I'm quite upbeat about how Buzz can bring similar technology to a very broad, mainstream audience.

  23. FYI – you can mute a Buzz thread the same way you’d mute an e-mail thread – just click on the Buzz and hit “m”, and it will never pop up again.

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