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Google Buzz review

Free

Manufacturer: Google

Google Buzz is a service that adds social-networking to the Googlemail (Gmail) webmail service. We took Google Buzz for a ride to find out what it is, how to get it, and why it is different from Facebook and Twitter.

Google Buzz is a service that adds social-networking to the Googlemail (Gmail) webmail service. We took Google Buzz for a ride to find out what it is, how to get it, and why it is different from Facebook and Twitter.

Google says that Google Buzz offers significant improvements over existing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, although at this early stage of its development it's hard to see how.

Google Buzz has been designed as a single dashboard to help users deal with the often massive amount of information they receive through existing social networking sites.

Unfortunately, at this point Google Buzz has no links into Facebook, which puts Google in direct competition with the world's biggest social-networking site: and will immediately make the 'simpler-is-better' proposition a fallacy for Facebook's 400 million users.

To use Google Buzz, you must first have a Gmail account. (For the uninitiated, Gmail is known as Googlemail in the UK.)

Go to Google.com/buzz, and follow the simple instructions. At this point, you should get a 'Buzz' icon and link beneath the inbox link in the lefthand navigation of your webmail browser window. Right now it seems that not all users immediately get this tab, and it doesn't yet appear in our webmail unless we go into it via the Google Buzz homepage.

Google Buzz: go mobile

Users can also access Google Buzz via Google Apps on mobile phones. Simply surf on over to buzz.google.com on you phone, sign in and accept the user agreement. The Google Buzz iPhone app is little more than a shortcut to a Gmail page optimised for mobile, with Buzz added.

Google Buzz iPhone

Like all the Google iPhone 'apps' this insists on booting another Safari browser window every time you go in. It's simple to add posts, however, which show your location (should you desire it to be so). You can also post direct from Google Maps.

Quite fun is the Buzz map, which lets you see who is Buzzing in your neighbourhood - kind of like an amalgam of Foursquare and Twitter (albeit with security risks entailed). This is a good way of finding fellow Buzzers in your area.

Google Buzz Maps

You can import posts from Twitter into Google Buzz, but in our tests this was taking a long time (over an hour and a half as of 10:49am on February 10). This is clearly not much good for Twitter users, used to almost immediate response. Of course, it's likely that at this early stage Google Buzz is simply feeling the strain, and things will speed up.

You can also automatically import content from other Web 2.0 sites, such as Flickr, Picasa and YouTube.

NEXT: Google Buzz -why webmail, and what makes Buzz so good?

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Google Buzz Expert Verdict »

Internet connection
Google log-in
compatible smartphone for mobile apps

It's way too early to give the definitive verdict on Google Buzz. At first glance, it's a so-so Twitter clone with a bunch of glitches, and the look and feel of Gmail. The potential for success lies in its ability to set tailor-made privacy settings, interact with other Google social services and utilise search to point only useful or interesting information at users. We don't imagine too many Twitter users will be ditching their Tweets to exclusively Buzz today, but add better collaboration with Twitter and Facebook, and Google Buzz will get very interesting indeed. Watch this space.

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