February 2010 – Stay N Alive

Is Google Stealing Authors’ Copyright With Buzz?

2 years ago I shared about a blogger and follower/friend of mine, Ali Akbar, who purchased the domain, googleappsengine.com (he still owns it) in order to create an AppEngine-related blog (since Google apparently forgot to purchase the domain).  Ali received a threatening Cease-and-Desist from Google shortly after asking him to immediately discontinue use of the domain and “Take immediate steps to transfer the Domain Name to Google”.  It would appear that Google needs to take a dose of its own medicine though.  To my surprise, I’ve realized recently that my articles from StayNAlive.com and other blogs are being shared, in their full text, on Buzz and having my ads stripped from them, without my permission.

For those unaware, there’s a “subscribe” button when you visit this blog that allows anyone to obtain the RSS of this blog and plug it into a Reader.  For those of you reading this in a Reader, thank you, and you’re already aware of this.  One thing I have done with those feeds if you haven’t noticed is at the bottom of each post in the RSS, I’ve added Google Adsense to my feeds so I can at least cover my costs of running this blog and make at least a few cents a day trying to re-coup costs of hosting and time spent writing posts.  If you visit http://staynalive.com/feed in a browser like Chrome, you can look at the raw feed and see the ads at the bottom of each post.  Or, if you’re reading this post in a traditional feed reader, look down at the bottom of this post and you’ll see the ad.

However, there’s a feature on Buzz that enables anyone reading my shared posts to expand the summarized content and view the entire post, right in Buzz.  For one, I didn’t give Buzz permission to do this on shared posts, and second, Buzz is stripping out my ads, depriving me of that potential revenue rather than either displaying those ads, or redirecting the user back to my site where I can monetize that in some other form.  This is blatant copyright infringement if you ask me!  Now, if you expand my posts, since it’s integrated into Gmail, look over to the right – see those ads?  Yup, I’m not getting a penny of that.

Google is now monetizing my content, and neglecting to ask for my permission in doing so, while removing what I had put in place to monetize my content.  Starting today, I’m removing my blog from my Google Profile, as well as my Google Reader shares so that I don’t help further the copyright infringement on other blogs I share.  The problem that still exists is that anyone who shares my content from Google Reader will also have my content available on Buzz in full format, and my ads stripped.  There’s no way to stop it, and Google is encouraging this wrong practice.

To be clear, I’m fine with them either displaying the ads that I put there (and allowing me to monetize off the other ads that are on the page), or just summarizing the article and encouraging users to click through to my site.  I’m not okay with Google scraping my content, stripping my ads, altering my content, and pushing it out for them to get 100% of the revenues off of something I spent time and money making.

Google, how is this not evil?  Maybe I should use Google’s own Cease and Desist letter to get them to stop this practice.  Or would that itself be copyright infringement?

Image courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment – “The Ant Bully”

UPDATE: The Google Buzz Team did contact me on Buzz (Ironically, considering the content of this post), and they say they’re going to have the ad scraping issue fixed by next week.

Facebook to Developers: "You Decide"

By the time I hit publish on this 5 other bigger blogs will have probably already covered this, but this deserves some praise.  One reason I love the Facebook Platform is because they really seem to care about API developers.  They do things the “right” way.  For instance, they have a beta site where they always release new bug fixes and features before they go live on the site.  They always release new API features in “sandbox mode” before going live with them.  No other platform releases new features and updates in this manner!  Just today they upped their game even more, giving developers full control over this process by letting developers decide when new API features go live.

The service gives developers a new “Migrations” option in their application settings, enabling them to choose when things go live.  The first one of these they launched has to do with a bug they’ve fixed which formats empty JSON strings correctly.  To enable the feature you just go to your “Migrations” section for your app, and select “on”, and now all empty JSON strings will be formatted in the correct manner.  The power of all of this is that you get to decide when these features go live, but you can start trying them immediately!

Of course, all features will eventually go live, but what this shows is that Facebook is willing to keep developers aware of changes before they go live.  Facebook won’t be launching features into the wild out of the blue like many of their competitors do quite regularly.  Previously, changes would go live, and while they would often show on the beta site, developers had little notice and little time to test them before putting them into production.  These changes would break many apps the minute they went into production.

IMO, this small feature changes the game for many other app platforms.  NO OTHER major app platform does anything like this.  Kudos to the Facebook platform team for continuing to change the game in regards to API development.  Since the Facebook platform launched, they have always been ahead in changes like this.  I can only hope other API platforms can follow suite in giving developers more control like this.  No one likes their applications to break because of simple API changes.

Speculation: Expect Something BIG in the Area of Real-Time at F8

I don’t do speculative posts like this too often, except around Facebook’s F8 developer events for the most part.  The last one I predicted was that Facebook would announce a Mobile Platform at F8 – the announcement did occur along with Facebook Connect.  The first F8 was the announcement of the Facebook API, which revolutionized Social Development and has left players like Google scrambling to play catch up since.  Now, 2 years since the last F8, the next F8 has been announced, and we are all wondering what the next big announcement will be.  If it is to be in line with the last 2, and, considering they waited 2 years to have another one, they have to be announcing something game-changing.  I predict it directly involves some of the FriendFeed team and it’s directly related to real-time.

First of all, let me preface this with the fact that I am not receiving this data from any inside contacts at Facebook, nor have I been told anything the rest of the world doesn’t already know.  This is pure speculation – I hope it’s taken as such.  I am also certainly not a psychic.  I think if you look at some of the hints though, you can see the potential for something big, perhaps FriendFeed 3.0-like (remember, FriendFeed 2.0 was the advent of their real-time stream you see now) about to happen at Facebook.  Here are my reasons for thinking such:

What is Paul Buchheit Working on?

Paul Buchheit, one of the founders of FriendFeed, creator of Gmail, and now working at Facebook after FriendFeed was acquired, hasn’t yet made it evident exactly what he’s working on.  We know Bret Taylor, also a founder, is now Director of Product for Facebook, and working heavily with the Facebook APIs and the new Roadmap Facebook has laid out for developers.  We know Kevin Fox, pretty much the man behind all the design of FriendFeed, has been working on the new Games and Apps dashboard that Facebook just launched (that you can see on the left-hand side of Facebook).

But what is Paul Buchheit working on?  He recently commented stating he is definitely not working on Facebook’s new e-mail product that they have been rumored to be working on to replace their current inbox structure.  I’m not sure anyone has specifically stated exactly whether he’s working on the Facebook developer platform now or not.  He seems to be doing something big, and he’s certainly been studying Google Buzz recently if you look over his FriendFeed stream lately.

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

Then there’s that “Butterfly” post.  Paul Buchheit specifically stated when Robert Scoble, Steve Gillmor, and others were all pressuring Facebook to make a statement on what they were going to do with FriendFeed that “the team is working on a couple of longer-term projects that will help bring FriendFeedy goodness to the larger world.”  He then continued, “Transformation is not the end. Consider this the chrysalis stage — if all goes well, a beautiful butterfly will emerge”.

The mystery in all this is that Facebook has not yet released anything even remotely similar to what Paul described yet.  Paul’s a really smart guy.  He’s not just going to work on something mediocre for Facebook – whatever it is, it has to be game changing.  I really believe that whatever it is will blow our minds away when it happens.  The FriendFeed team doesn’t just innovate.  They revolutionize.  I don’t believe they would still be at Facebook if they didn’t have that opportunity.

Facebook’s Needs

Then there’s the lack of any real-time APIs or architecture at Facebook.  I have to click on the page to have it refresh.  Frankly, I think that fits their current audience of 400 million+ “average Joes” well.  It doesn’t tap into the news-seeking, data-mining, and publishing audiences very well though.  That’s what Twitter does well.  It’s what FriendFeed and Buzz also do well.  All of these come with real-time APIs and real-time searches (or “track”).

Facebook needs a real-time interface for developers still.  It needs search.  It needs search to be real-time.  It needs a public view into all of that, supported by the powerful privacy controls Facebook already has in place.  Facebook has already built out the building blocks to launch this with their recent emphasis on encouraging users to open up their posts more and at the same time enabling them to have granularity in who sees those posts.  The next natural step is to finally open up those public posts to developers, and provide a real-time interface to it all.  With a 400 million user audience, that would be game-changing in the realm of real-time data.  We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

The Lack of any Really Big Known Announcements at F8

Lastly, we know everything else Facebook could announce at F8.  Facebook has already started rolling out credits to developers, so a payment system wouldn’t be much of a “game changer” per se.  I’m sure they’ll talk a lot about it at the conference though.  Facebook has already started rolling out its Ads API to developers.  They’ve already announced the desire to open up websites as virtual 3rd-party “Pages” on the web.  They’ve let us know just about everything in their roadmap, except the fate of FriendFeed.

Doesn’t this seem strange to you that Facebook and the FriendFeed team have been so mute on this in general for almost a year now?  What’s going on behind the scenes?  Even when asking the FriendFeed team about plans to integrate better into Facebook they have remained mute.  How cool would it be if, while everyone is ranting and raving about Google Buzz and calling FriendFeed dead, the FriendFeed team along with the incredible talent that Facebook adds to the mix have all been working on FriendFeed 3.0 behind the scenes?  What if Facebook caught wind Google was working on Buzz and bought FriendFeed in response to that rumor?  Will the “Butterfly” emerge at F8?  The chrysalis stage takes patience – I’m not giving up on FriendFeed yet.

Google Changes the Way You Read My Feeds – You Still Have no Control

Louis Gray just reported a new way Google is trying to control the problem of mine and Louis’s and Robert Scoble and Mashable, and more of the more active feeds and streams on Google Buzz taking over the streams of our followers.  The problem that was occuring is that for those with a lot of followers, their posts would continue to dominate the streams of those following them because every time someone commented or liked the post, it would go right back to the top of your feed.  While I understand the problem, and agree there needs to be a fix, I argue Google is trying to fix this the wrong way.

The way Google decided to fix it is now they decide, based on some sort of algorithm, how often my feeds get thrown up to the top of your stream.  This ensures no active user will ever fully dominate your stream.  However, what if we want to consume this data?  The problem is Google is the one making that choice for you, not giving you the power to make that choice yourself, and I think that’s a very wrong approach.

Rather than Google making that choice for us, they need to focus on lists, the way FriendFeed and Facebook do it, and the way over 400 million people are familiar with.  This is the natural flow – if someone is too noisy, you take them out of one list and put them in another.  Let us choose which list is the default.  Give us an easy way to assign people we follow into different lists.  This isn’t that difficult a solution for someone Google’s size, and gives the users absolute, full control, rather than taking it away from them to make the decision on how active their feeds are.  This needs to be their 100% focus right now to keep my attention.

The way Google is approaching this is wrong.  I really hope they change their focus to lists, open up the flood wall, but give us filters, privacy controls, and put the control back in the users’ hands.  Don’t take our power away from us Google.

Image courtesy http://arbroath.blogspot.com/2008/03/let-me-out.html

Did Google Reader Just Turn on the Firehose?

Google’s big push recently has been on enabling open, real-time technologies to publish, read, and interact with its new service Buzz.  Reader, its RSS subscription and website reading service, is one of the biggest tools to integrate with the service.  So much that my Reader contacts are now my Buzz contacts.  Until now, Google Reader, while when it would share your posts, it would send updates to subscribing services via Pubsub Hubbub (PSHB), it did not support the reading end of it for supported blogs that publish via PSHB.

Just after my last post on Google ironically, I noticed immediately after publishing people were sharing my post, something very unusual for the service, which usually takes up to an hour for my posts to show up on the site.  Going into Reader, I noticed it had immediately recognized my post.  I quickly queried a friend of mine at Google, who stated, “They can neither confirm nor deny my suspicion” (that it was launched), but I was “observant”.  Sounds like they just launched Pubsub Hubbub support.

WordPress-enabled Blogs that want to be seen immediately after publishing in Google Reader just need to install Josh Fraser’s Pubsub Hubbub plugin for WordPress.  After hitting publish, your post should appear immediately afterwards in PSHB-supported clients, which, if I am correct, now includes Google Reader’s massive user base.

If this is true, you should see this post immediately after I hit publish in Google Reader.  Assuming I’m right (which it seems so), Robert Scoble’s concern of it taking too long to get news (#5) just went out the door today – he can now get this just as fast, if not faster than any service such as Twitter, FriendFeed, or Buzz, and this way, he gets to read the full content of the article.  When I hit publish on this post you will see it immediately.  You are subscribed to my feeds, right?

UPDATE: Just after hitting publish it appeared immediately in Google Reader on this post as well.  I’m 99.9% sure now that PSHB was launched on Google Reader today.

Image courtesy http://www.scotduke.com/getting-a-drink-out-of-a-fire-hose/

Is Google’s Position Towards Default Privacy a Good Thing?

I’ve been openly critical about Google’s lack of privacy in their launch of Buzz (and I argue other things as well), and its’ opt-in attitude towards opening up contacts and settings people previously thought were private.  That doesn’t change.  However, I’d like to spend some time here playing devil’s advocate and share how perhaps, Google starting with an open approach may be a good thing for Google in the long term.  Let me explain:

There’s no doubt that Google opening up all our data at the launch of Buzz is making people think more about Privacy.  I’ve had a post in the back of my head for quite awhile now that I was going to write on how I think Facebook could have made a mistake starting with a focus on privacy, as now people just assume that everything they put online is private, when in all actuality there is no way that will ever happen 100%.  Because of Facebook, people are getting more comfortable with posting their lives online, and while, even if Facebook remains a private environment for those people (in many cases it isn’t), they are now becoming more comfortable posting that information elsewhere, assuming it will remain private in those places as well.

I think Facebook could have done their users a disservice by giving them that comfort.  What if, instead of starting out private as Facebook did, they instead opened up everyone’s profile by default, and enabled them to choose what elements they want private after that?  Make people completely aware their information is 100% public, and then it is up to those people to decide what they share online, and what they would prefer stays private.  I think there would be a lot more education amongst users this way, and people would think twice before sharing things online.  Of course, Facebook wants people to share in easier ways and in a more comfortable environment to make sharing as easy as possible, so this isn’t going to happen, but it may have been even more in the right by defaulting to public on more things.  Ironically, these types of moves are what is getting Facebook a lot of flack as is, regardless of whether there are privacy controls in place that users can still turn on.

So perhaps Google is doing a good thing here.  Even the optimistic Louis Gray says we’re all wearing tin foil hats by criticizing their lack of privacy.  By starting public (while I still argue turning what was previously private into a completely open environment is completely wrong, and it seems they’re backtracking to try and fix this), Google is encouraging each and every one of its hundreds of millions of users to think twice before sharing anything online.  Google is taking a risk here by making people think twice, since it makes money off of the content you share.

I fully predict Google will be adding more and more privacy controls as they move forward.  I agree, maybe they launched too soon before having these privacy controls in place.  One thing they may have done right though is that they are making us think twice about sharing.  They’re making each of us think about what goes online, and what stays off, and how comfortable we are with what we want public.  I think that’s a good thing, and more companies should be defaulting public, rather than private, until the general internet audience gets used to this type of environment where we know everything we share could very well be made public for the whole world to see.

I encourage you to step back and think about this – I agree, privacy is a good thing, but could the default to public be even better?  Are users being educated with this move?  It’s an interesting move by Google – let’s just hope they can get more privacy controls in place for users to choose from as they do it.

Twitter Hires 140th "Character", Adds Lucene Committer Michi Busch to its Search Talent

It’s no secret Twitter has a desire to have a stronger search presence.  With business models that thrive on content publishing and organization, a strong search product is necessary to provide the most revenue down the road.  Just today, while announcing its 140th employee and celebrating to the music of BT, Twitter hired Michael (Michi) Busch, search indexing expert and committer to the Open Source Lucene search project to its team as a “Search Engineer”, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Busch brings with him not only strong experience in his contributions to Lucene, but also a firm background at IBM working on IBM’s eDiscovery Analyzer product, focusing on indexing and search technologies there as well.  Busch is a regular presenter at various ApacheCon conferences, so I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of him while working for Twitter.

Just after Twitter’s announcement today of its focus on Open Source standards, the hiring of Busch just solidifies that there will continue to be a focus on open technologies at Twitter.  Lucene, perhaps one of the most widely used open source search indexing products in the world, we can now wonder if it will play a part in that process.  With one of its committers working for Twitter, we can hopefully expect real-world cases of search indexing technology integrated into the open source product in the future.

Twitter continues to expand its team of smart talent, and it seems almost weekly continues to add to its pool of geniuses from the likes of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and IBM.  As I said before, it’s this talent pool that continues to excite me about Twitter and have a strong belief in its future.  With Busch now working on the search product, there’s no doubt that Twitter has an interest in good technology, and helping the community as it grows.  I can’t wait to see what Busch can bring to Twitter.

What Buzz Needs to Make a "Sting" in Facebook

There’s a new Buzzword in town that’s “Buzz” lately and as I mentioned earlier, some are already calling things “dead” because of it.  Most of this is due to the size of Google, the masses it can reach, and the overall usefulness of the service.  Personally, I think all the “dead” articles are all a ruse to build the numbers of those praising the service and feeling a need to abandon others, as well as gain favor with the Google team as they see strong potential in the service.  While there’s no argument there’s potential in the service (and I’m even spending more time over there and strongly hope for its success), it is far from a “Facebook killer”.  While I mentioned why before, I feel qualified, and I’d like to spend some time sharing some things it needs to get on level grounds to Facebook.

Buzz Needs a Central Place for all Social Activity

I’ve said this before – Google needs a central place for everything “Social”.  Facebook has grown so well because it has this organization.  I’m still unclear if Google is trying to make Buzz this place, or if Orkut, or another product should be that.  Contacts are not that place – Contacts should be the source of social graph data, but are not social connections.  Social connections can come from much more than just contact data – people search, other peoples’ buzzes, as well as other Social Networks can all be sources for Social Contacts between Buzz (see the need for Facebook import later).

Buzz Needs a Stronger API

One of the reasons Buzz has such strong potential is because of its foundation on open architectures.  There is so much more that can be done however – I’m sure they’re working on some of these, but I’d like to share my thoughts, in hope that if they haven’t been thought of, they can be added.  For instance, currently there is no way for any 3rd party app to gain access to the cool comments architecture Buzz posts get in Gmail.  What if I could get FriendFeed, or even SocialToo e-mails in the same format?  Buzz or Gmail could open an interface to this, perhaps built on top of SMTP (an SMTP header would denote it’s a formatted e-mail), Salmon, and OpenSocial standards, to give developers access to this UI.  The great thing about it – if Buzz sends new Buzz updates in an SMTP-supported format, other e-mail clients could adapt these standards as well.  It would no longer be limited to just Gmail to see these formats.

I think it goes without saying that we need better ways to read, analyze, and discover the data, as well as social graph connections on Buzz.  I’d like to be able to track who’s posting about what, how many likes or how many comments there are for specific posts mentioning specific keywords or links.  I’d like to be able to track who has followed an individual and who has stopped following an individual on Buzz.  I’d like to be able to embed Buzzes on 3rd party sites.  I’d like an FBML-like interface to integrate and customize content right in the Buzz environment.  I’d like RSS for every search I do, along with the ability to share searches and get notifications on new items from those searches (I believe Steve Gillmor calls this “Track”).

Buzz Needs Groups and Events, Deep Integration Into Those Events and Groups

To say just a social stream service is comparable to Facebook would be like saying Notepad is comparable to Windows 7.  It’s just not a fair comparison.  One is a feature of the other.  If Buzz really wants to compete (and I’m not saying they do), they need deep integration into Groups, Events, business Pages, and more.  They need the ability for groups of people to all collaborate around a single event, Buzz around it, share it with their friends via Buzz, RSVP via Buzz and Gmail, etc.  Google Calendar just doesn’t do this yet.

Groups are another key component.  E-mail is too private.  They need to enable “Groups” in Buzz that do more than just Buzz.  They need to enable sharing of photos, events related to that Group, and encourage communication amongst Group members.  They need to put that into a people search enabling you to find old High School friends and acquaintances through them.  Google already has some of the basics for this, but I argue they aren’t yet integrated across Google services yet, and are a bit more private an environment than what Facebook encourages.  The challenge Google will have is maintaining the “public feel” that Facebook groups and events provide, while maintaining the “silo’d feel” Facebook provides at the same time giving people a sense of security.  This will be no easy challenge, and may take a silo’d environment like Orkut to do completely successful.

Buzz Needs Better Privacy Controls

At the heart of most Buzz controversy currently lies their relaxed privacy controls.  Originally they automatically followed people for you, giving others potential access to your private list of contacts.  Your Google contacts were also all visible on your Google profile just by enabling Buzz.  Google has since enabled you to disable this, and has turned the “auto-follow” into more of an “auto-suggest”, but there is still so much more that I can get from Facebook that Google is lacking in regards to Privacy.

For instance, on Facebook, I get to decide how much of my own profile is visible to certain friends.  I get to decide if it’s visible to friends of friends.  I can even go to the extent of selecting specific lists I want to be visible to, and certain other lists of friends (or individual friends) I don’t want it to be visible to.  I can specify specific components of my profile I want visible to those lists.  I can set profile-wide settings that remain protected by the privacy settings I set, as well as specific targeted profile elements that remain protected by these privacy settings.  Facebook gives me complete control over what my friends see and don’t see.  With Google Buzz, not only is it all out in the open, but you’re revealing much more than your social contacts – you’re revealing e-mail addresses and Google account information.  It’s wrong the way Google approached this from the beginning, and I argue, even a little bit evil, whether intended or not.

Buzz Needs Lists

Which brings me to my next point – lists.  Lists have much further ramifications than just privacy settings.  On Facebook, I can click on the “Friends” link on the left-navigation and immediately have access to lists I have organized of my friends.  I can view the posts of just my close family members, or just the posts of the news makers and use it like a news reader.  Or I can look at just the latest comments of all my friends, or even a summarized view of the top posts for the day.  Buzz really needs this to be even remotely useful.  On FriendFeed, I have a list of “Favorites”, which I use most of the time to get the most relevant content from those I actually know, and then I can skim the rest of those I follow occasionally.

On every Social Network I belong, it should not be about giving, but how you receive content.  Each and every Social Network has the responsibility to empower its users to receive content in the way they want to.  Facebook has mastered this (although I argue FriendFeed has done, to an extent, even more than Facebook in this area).  No one should feel the need to unfollow me because I post too much, or post one or two things they don’t like.  They should be able to read the content in the manner they like, and filter out what they don’t like, without the ugly unfollow.  Lists are just one component of this.

Buzz Needs Better Filters

The other part of being able to receive content the way you like is via filters.  Each and every application that interfaces with Facebook has to identify itself.  This enables users to filter based on application if they choose to.  If I don’t want to receive Farmville posts, I just hide everything from Farmville, and I’ll never see another field plowed or beet grown again.  People argue they’re worried integration with Facebook will enable the Farmvilles to gain access, but the thing is, without filters, the Farmvilles will use Buzz regardless, but without Filters you will have no way to stop them.  Facebook has completely mastered this, and I can’t do this on any other service.

In addition to application hiding, I should be able to filter by feed type.  If I don’t want to see someone’s Twitter feed, I should be able to hide just their Twitter feed.  If I want to block all Twitter posts from showing, I should be able to do that.  If I want to hide a user but not unfollow them, I should be able to do that.  I shouldn’t have to worry about making anyone feel bad by unfollowing or blocking them.  I should be able to just control my feed in the way I want, just like I do on Facebook (and to an extent, FriendFeed).

Buzz Needs the Ability to Import my Facebook Contacts

Lastly, in order to compete with Facebook, Buzz needs my Facebook friends.  They’re not going to get those through my Gmail contacts.  Most of my Facebook friends are not in my Gmail Contacts.  The only way they’re going to gain access to my Facebook friends is via the Facebook API.  It’s time for Google to suck it up, work with Facebook, and find ways of integrating my friend list from Facebook into the Google environment.  We’ve waited too long for this with Google Friend Connect, and surely there’s a win-win option for both companies to allow this and work together.  Win-win for them is win-win for the user.

Let’s look at Aardvark (recently purchased by Google), for instance.  If you log into Aardvark with your Facebook login, it will immediately detect who in your Facebook contacts are also on Aardvark, and immediately add them as friends on Aardvark.  The site, Digg.com also does this well – all my Facebook friends are automatically added as Digg friends as they log into Digg through Facebook.  There should be no problem with Buzz following Facebook’s developer terms of service and integrating this into their own environment.  Facebook provides hooks into its APIs for doing this exact thing.

Assuming it agrees with the Facebook developer terms of service, Google could even submit each user’s contacts to Facebook and immediately prompt each user in your contacts list to connect on Facebook.  This would be win-win for both companies, as it would encourage the users of both services to build contacts in each and grow each service.  Considering Youtube and Aardvark have both integrated the Facebook API (Youtube could do much better), I don’t anticipate any issues with them doing this.  I will interpret any lack of Facebook integration as a failure on Google’s part, and Google itself playing politics, not Facebook.  So long as you play by their rules, I’ve never heard of Facebook deny a developer.

I really hope the Buzz team reads this.  I have a lot of experience in the Facebook environment.  I know intimately how Facebook works as an author of 2 books on the subject and writer of a plethora of documentation about Facebook on various sites around the web, as well as a developer of numerous apps on the Facebook API and consultant to many others.  Frankly, as a user and developer, I want to see both companies succeed.  The more Buzz succeeds, the more Facebook will compete and provide a better service.  The more Facebook competes, the more Buzz will compete and provide a better service.  Users win in both scenarios.

If Buzz is really trying to compete with Facebook, these are the things they need to implement to get my attention.

Google Has Large Company Syndrome

I’ve worked for various companies over my career.  Some of those very small (including my current startup), and some very large, international and public corporations.  I currently work with similar clients of various sizes and types.  Each and every one of them shared characteristics that come with the turf in managing a large or a small company.  In a small company, you’re dealing with issues like how to grow, how do you start to deal with a growing employee base, and how do you handle all the workload in front of you on such a limited budget.  Yet you have much more flexibility to get things done and build for the whole of the company.  With large corporations you’re dealing with politics, and budgets, and individual departments all fighting for control.  It’s common amongst every single organization I have come in contact with, and I believe that is starting to include Google, which we’re seeing evident in many of their new Social products.

Let me preface with the fact that I love the concept of Buzz.  As an avid FriendFeed user and Social Media addict, Buzz hits many points that are just sweet in my eyes.  I love that they’re embracing open technologies to build it, and working hard to empower individuals and even (soon) developers to have control over their own experiences on the platform.  With the size of Google, this will bring much more attention to these types of technologies, so what they are doing is a good thing.  I don’t think they needed to reinvent the wheel to do it though, and I think the reason they did it may be in part due to the size and politics of the company.

Enter Google Reader.  I’ve complained many times that I don’t think Reader needed to focus on Social.  I don’t think it needed to re-build your Social Graph all over again.  Now, with Buzz in the mix they are trying to cross-integrate the two, and I think it’s really the wrong approach.

What I think is happening is departments at Google aren’t working close enough together to make things work properly.  For instance, Orkut already has the strength of building social connections.  Its strength is in building Social Graphs and empowering users to share with their close friends and family.  They already have the tools to do it, and, in some countries this has proved to be quite successful.  I think the Orkut team knows that.

In the case of Reader, what I think is happening is in the product development cycle they realized they needed social features.  The Orkut team wasn’t available, or one of the two teams didn’t have the budget to cross-integrate, or perhaps politics got in the way, so Reader reinvented the wheel to do Social in the Reader environment.  They could have rather done something similar to Facebook Connect, and enabled users to connect to their Orkut Social Graph and brought in shares via that means.  Then Orkut continues to own the Social Graph, social interactions continue to happen through Orkut, and people can continue to build connections with Orkut as the main hub for Social interactivity.  My guess is that the Orkut team was too booked to create such a tool just for the Reader team.  Someone up the line said no to it, so the Reader team built their own tools to accomplish the task.

I think we’re seeing the same with Buzz, and many more tools like Friend Connect and OpenSocial and others at Google.  Sergey most likely assigned a team at Google with the task of building a FriendFeed or Twitter-like product that enabled people to communicate better.  Orkut does not yet have such functionality, and it made sense to do it as a separate product.  They decided to integrate it into Gmail, where your contacts are.  Rather than utilize the strengths of Orkut for organizing these contacts, it was probably easier due to the size of Google to utilize Gmail’s contact manager to do so, which Google Reader just so happens to also use.  The cross-integration with Reader just happened naturally, but thanks to the lack of expertise in Social Graph management, it was done poorly, now making it extremely hard for Google Reader users to manage their stream.

In large companies it’s very hard to cross-integrate.  I think had Google from the get-go started to find ways to build a Facebook Connect-like interface for Orkut, they could have very well created more activity in Orkut itself, while cross-integrating all their other products into the Social Graphs built on Orkut.  Now Google is stuck with an unorganized mush of multiple social graphs, multiple streams, and messaging and content going all over the place within those streams with little regard to privacy.

It may be too late, but if I were Google, I would look at taking a step back, focusing on Orkut, and building out from there before continuing further on any Social Graph-based products.  These social products Google is building should all be relying on Orkut for that social data and then they would have a true Social Network to build from.  They shouldn’t be reinventing the Social Graph every time they build a new service.  This is why Facebook has had such success in the social space – they’ve focused on the one product as the source for all their Social releases.  Google really needs to do the same, and they can still do it with open standards, but this time starting from the Orkut environment and building out.

Horton’s Megaphone – The Competition for Discovery

There’s a lot of “Buzz” going around lately about Google Buzz being a Facebook or Myspace killer.  Jason Calacanis, Mahalo founder and lover of Tesla, goes to the extent of saying with Buzz, Facebook lost half its value.  Thomas Hawk, an amazing photographer and avid FriendFeed user, stated on FriendFeed that Google Buzz is going to “Kick MySpace’s A**”.  While I don’t doubt that Myspace is already having difficulties, I really don’t see Buzz being competition at all for the Facebooks or Myspaces or even Orkuts of this world.  It’s a matter of apples and oranges, or metaphorically speaking, just dust in an elephant’s trunk.

There’s a term I like to apply to the Twitter, Buzz, and FriendFeed phenomenas when compared to Facebook and Myspace and Orkut that I call, “Horton’s Megaphone”.  We all live in a personal world of friends, family, teachers, doctors, and pets.  That’s our reality.  We live in it from day to day and it is what we are most familiar with.  Yet, there’s another reality we all want to be a part of.  Without being heard we’re at risk of missing out on career opportunities, growing our businesses, or maybe even fame or fortune.  There’s a need beyond this current reality to get word about ourselves out to other realities beyond our inner circle of friends and family.  It’s a competition for discovery about who we are.

This is where Horton comes in.  In the Dr. Seuss book, “Horton Hears a Who!”, we see a completely different reality from our own, the “Whos”, whose entire reality exists in just a small speck of dust within our own.  They have mayors and doctors and family and friends and neighbors, and live a grand life.  But when tragedy strikes they are stuck trying to get an alternate reality to hear them.  Their final survival ends up relying on their voices, a megaphone, and an elephant named Horton who had the heart to listen.  “We are here! We are here! We are here!” they shouted in desperation through that megaphone, trying to get the attention of reality.  Sounds familiar.

Buzz is simply that megaphone used to create contact with the real world.  It’s a way we can get word out to alternate realities beyond our own to ensure our own survival as individuals, businesses, and organizations on the internet.  Buzz, Twitter, and FriendFeed are where your own realities get to speak with other realities you would have never come in contact with before they existed.

There is no way Facebook should feel even a little bit threatened by Buzz (unless they’re trying to grow FriendFeed).  They are two entirely different communication mediums.  On Facebook I don’t need a megaphone to communicate with my close friends and family, which it was designed for.  On Buzz I can’t find old friends from High School or even Elementary School, or old clubs or groups I used to belong to like I can on Facebook.  I don’t have groups or shared events or life photos of all those close friends and family.  Facebook is where real life happens.  It’s the Elephant, the real world, reality.  Some call it a “walled garden”.  I call it reality, where everybody knows your name.

Buzz is (and Twitter and FriendFeed are) just an entity of individuals, most which do not know each other and each having their own realities, all trying to compete for the attention of real life.  It’s a different type of communication.  On these platforms it’s a competition for attention (which is why everyone wants to compete for the highest number of followers).  On Facebook (and Myspace and Orkut to an extent) that competition is already won.

Facebook has the holy grail of networks right now – real life connections and relationships that are all able to connect and share with one another.  It is where each and everyone on Buzz wants to be.  The real value is in those real-life connections.  Otherwise we are all just specs of dust in an elephants trunk.

“We are here! We are here! We are here!”