Last week we covered the launch of Google Buzz, the new social networking platform launched by Google.
Buzz sits inside Gmail, and allows users to follow people, post status updates, share content, and find out what followers have been up to online. It’s like a hybrid between Twitter and Facebook.
Google has been forced to have a rethink about how Buzz works, following criticism that users face a loss of privacy.
The reason for the privacy concern is that Google automatically creates followers amongst people who you regularly exchange email with. It then publishes those follower lists on your Google profile, meaning that anyone can see who anyone else is following.
That’s fine for the most part. It’s possible to go and edit your settings so that these follower lists remain private. But for those users who would prefer to keep their email correspondents private, and who don’t know how to change the settings, it’s an invasion of privacy.
Test and test again
Google have been forced to admit that they probably didn’t do enough user-testing before rolling out the platform. The company usually makes products available in BETA, allowing selective users to test and give feedback before a full product launch. This time around, Google jumped straight in and launched the ‘finished’ product.
Todd Jackson, Google Buzz product manager said that his team were working “extremely hard” to fix the problems.
“We’re very early in this space. This was one of our first big attempts,” he continued.
“We’ve been testing Buzz internally at Google for a while. Of course, getting feedback from 20,000 Googlers isn’t quite the same as letting Gmail users play with Buzz in the wild.”
Google Trusted Tester Program
Even before a product gets to an open beta, it is usually tested by the Google Trusted Tester program, a group of company-linked people given advanced access before beta launch. That didn’t happen with Buzz.
In a rare admission of error, Mr Jackson said that users were “rightfully upset” and that Google was “very, very sorry”.
Wow. Google saying sorry? Whatever next!
For the average user to have followers published might be just slightly embarrassing. For political activists working under hostile regimes, it’s potentially life threatening.
Is Google losing it? Or is it a minor blip on their intergalactic journey of web domination? Leave us a comment below