Google Quietly Kills Off ‘Twitter Killer’ Google Buzz – What Price Google+ Next?

Over on their official blog, Google has announced the shutdown of a number of Google products, including Jaiku, Google Labs and, unsurprisingly, Google Buzz.

Google Buzz? Oh, you remember – that was the Twitter killer that Google launched with much fanfare in February 2010. Ironically, the only thing it killed was Google’s standing in the world of social media.

Well, until Google+ came along. But, despite the hot start, I’m not convinced we won’t be having this same conversation about Google+ a year or two from now. In fact, I think that it’s increasingly probable, because I’m not sure that Google learned enough from the failure of Buzz.

“In a few weeks we’ll shut down Google Buzz and the Buzz API, and focus instead on Google+,” says Google. “While people obviously won’t be able to create new posts after that, they will be able to view their existing content on their Google Profile.”

(Thank heavens for that.)

“Changing the world takes focus on the future, and honesty about the past. We learned a lot from products like Buzz, and are putting that learning to work every day in our vision for products like Google+. Our users expect great things from us; today’s announcements let us focus even more on giving them something truly awesome.”

Google Buzz launched with – ahem – a lot of buzz but it was obvious from the start that the platform was riddled with issues, notably with regard to privacy. It also suffered from poor UI decisions, including no limits on characters or images. But the biggest problem was how easily Buzz was dominated by the big personalities in the world of tech – a phenomenon I’ve previously termed as The Scoble Effect, named after early adopter supremo Robert Scoble. The moment that Scoble gets his hands on the next big thing is the real test of that platform’s viability, and with Buzz it was obvious early on that if you were in any way connected to Robert, that’s pretty much all you would see in your feed. They might as well have named it Google Scoble and been done with it.

(No offense meant to Scoble – I like the guy a lot. His enthusiasm is infectious. But he does break things. Or at least shine the light on the pitfalls. This is a good thing – he plays a key part in the social ecosystem.)

Here’s the thing: I see the same problems with Google+. Like Buzz, if you follow Scoble on Google+ it’s all Scoble, all the time. The same is true for most of the other tech powerhouses. Follow half a dozen of these guys and with all of their updates and the comments they receive you’ll get the impression that Google+ is the centre of the universe. But take those same guys away and you’ll quickly realize that it’s all an illusion. It’s either one or the other. Sure, you can mute posts and so on, but if you’re having to do that to make a platform remotely useable, why even bother with it at all?

It’s different on Twitter, as tweets are far more manageable, and the 140-character limitation means you can absorb a lot more in a brief amount of time. You can digest an entire screen’s worth of tweets in a few minutes – that same screen can be made up of half of some of Scoble’s posts on Google+. And Facebook’s News Feed algorithm makes it more palatable there, as well.

Also like Buzz, Google+ had a huge amount of initial interest and everybody was singing its praises. But, again like Buzz, that didn’t last very long. Traffic is down considerably since the public launch – as much as 70 percent according to some sources.