Well, much to no one’s surprise, and much as I predicted the other day, Google did not put their best foot forward with Buzz, privacy-wise or just-about-any-other-wise.
As reported in the New York Times and about a million other places, the auto-follow feature of Buzz did not go over well. In fact, what I see popping up again and again in comments across the web is the (abysmal but mercifully declining) phrase “epic fail”. Such was consumer anger that Buzz will from now on merely suggest who to put in the follow list, instead of automatically connecting you to your contacts. A formal complaint has been lodged with the FTC over these privacy issues.
Further compounding the issue, when people disabled Buzz entirely, it created issues with their profiles. I know that when I started doing it and saw the warning (“you are about to delete your public profile, including any Buzz posts you have made and your connected sites settings”), I left well enough alone and canceled out, leaving Buzz enabled. I suspect many others will do just like me. The cynical side of me says this was an intentional design decision.
One thing is undeniable, the whole launch had a distinctly Microsoftian feel to it. Clearly, the product should have been given a large public beta before being rolled out willy-nilly to everyone. And why opt everyone in automatically?
This might not have been a Windows Vista-level mishap but Google doesn’t have the same kind of user lock-in that MS has. Consumers can avoid Google’s products a whole lot easier than they can Microsoft’s, for the most part.
So is Google falling prey to organizational size issues and complacency, as this suggests? Or is it just a fluke? We shall see, I guess.