Google Buzz Fires at Facebook. Facemail to Battle Gmail. Who Will Survive?

For the previous few days, the web was a-buzz with chatter about the news that Facebook is developing a full-blown webmail product to replace its current messaging system.

Today the web was literally “buzzing” with the announcement and launch of Google Buzz, a social networking product integrated into Gmail.  If you missed the announcement, check out this short video.

Will Facemail (or whatever it will be called) be a Gmail killer?

Will Google Buzz be a Facebook or Twitter killer?

Here’s my take…

Facemail vs Gmail

Facebook is going to try to leverage its position as the dominant social networking site to horn its way into the email arena.

Currently, if I’m on Facebook and I see an update from one of my friends and want to send them a quick message, I’ll do it through the FB messaging system rather than click over to Gmail.  There are quite a few friends who I’ve connected with on Facebook, whose email addresses I don’t even have.  So the only way I can send them a message is through FB.

Once Facemail goes live, hundreds of millions of people just like me will all of the sudden have a Facemail account and already be using it.  Lots of them will start to ask themselves, “Why do I need 2 email accounts?”  And they’ll consider dropping their other account, this will be especially true for users of Hotmail and YahooMail.  Maybe even Gmail.

Whether people drop their current email account will come down to convenience vs functionality.  Facemail will be more convenient.  Will it come close rivaling Gmail’s  disk space, search, spam filtering and other features?

Google Buzz vs Facebook

I watched the Google Buzz announcement this afternoon and was really impressed.  The integration with Gmail is good.  The viewing of pics and vids appears better than any of its rivals.  When they did a status update via mobile phone using voice recognition and then geotagged it to a layer of Google Maps my jaw almost hit the floor.

In many ways Google Buzz is probably better than both Facebook and Twitter.

But the real question is… Is Google Buzz good enough to cause people to want to start using another social network in addition to or instead of the social networks they’re already using?

Here are 2 images that speak volumes.

First, this is a screenshot of what I saw when I first checked out Google Buzz.

Google Buzz Screenshot

One of the big features Google hyped in their announcement today was auto-following.  Buzz figures which other Gmail users I interact with most and then automatically sets me up to follow them.  Well, initially I’m only following 3 people and nobody is following me.  Not exactly a party here.

Second, here’s a chart of email client market share.

email market share

As you can see Gmail only has less than 6% of the market.

What’s more, if you want to move to a new email provider it’s easy.  You just do it.  But if you want to move to a new social network, you have to get your friends to move as well

So, on the one hand you’ve got Facebook leveraging it’s 70% of the social networking market share to get people to make an easy switch to their email.  Seems likely they will have success there.

On the other hand you’ve got Google trying to leverage it’s 6% of the email market share to get people to make a difficult switch to their social network.  That seems like a tougher sell to me.

What impact do you think Facemail will have on the Gmail and the email market?

What impact do you think Google Buzz will have on Facebook and the social networking market?

Will you use either?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

17 Responses to “Google Buzz Fires at Facebook. Facemail to Battle Gmail. Who Will Survive?”

  1. I am more interested in finding out about Google Buzz but Facemail is an easy way to know all the email addresses of every facebook user – bring on the spam :P

  2. I wont move from Gmail to Facemail! I have too much invested in the Gmail 'relationship'. I typically ignore the Facebook inbox anyway and as Phillip mentioned Facebook is way too spammy.

    Scot Williams said that Twitter is a stream not a lake, you don't have to take it all in. Facebook is the same for me.

    • Yeah, I imagine a lot of Gmail users will feel the same way. Curious about 2 things you said…

      First, do you mean you have too much invested in your "relationship" with the Gmail tool or with the people you connect with through Gmail?

      Second, since only your Facebook "friends" can send message through the FB messaging system now, how is it spammy? Or are you referring to all the notifications from apps and so forth?

      • Good questions Paul.

        1. I use my Gmail account for almost everything. Any website that needs an email address for a user name etc. it is basically my primary point of contact. so to answer your question.. The tool not the people. Although I figure it would mess up a bunch of people if I were to change my email address now.

        2. Somehow people feel free to send stuff to your Facebook account that they would never send to an email address. But notifications and apps on Facebook also promote spam activities. But Gmail has a track record of cutting out spam, I also presume that the new Facemail will be open to the public (as in you can email someones facebook email from Gmail for example) so that opens the door even wider.

      • Good questions Paul.
        1. I use my Gmail account for almost everything. Any website that needs an email address for a user name etc. it is basically my primary point of contact. so to answer your question.. The tool not the people. Although I figure it would mess up a bunch of people if I were to change my email address now.

        2. Somehow people feel free to send stuff to your Facebook account that they would never send to an email address. But notifications and apps on Facebook also promote spam activities. But Gmail has a track record of cutting out spam, I also presume that the new Facemail will be open to the public (as in you can email someones facebook email from Gmail for example) so that opens the door even wider.

  3. I use Gmail and I am happy with it. Facemail? No I don't think so. As Phillip pointed out, entirely too much spam will follow. I like my Facebook fans and friends but I have had little need to email any of them. I like the current forms of communication in Facebook as is.

    Google Buzz has captured my attention though. I saw the announcement and have viewed the video introduction. I can see where I would use it to forward information from an email but I do not see it taking over Twitter. I see it more as a tool, eg. TweetDeck.

  4. I think your article is interesting. You know that I don't have a facebook account so it really it is kind of a no brainer for me. However, I will tell you that Facebook does not have good privacy policies (yeah, that is what my husband has been telling me forEVER and I am finally listening). Too many times things have "accidentally" gone public when they should've been private. I would be afraid that they would "accidentally" make public some of my emails (and that information too).

  5. I use both Facebook and Gmail, though gmail is not my main email account. I think it's going to be very difficult to get Facebook people to move simply because all their friends are on facebook. Like you said, changing an email address you can just do, but if you're going to change a social networking site, you have to get all your friends to do it too. Then there's all the games, fan pages, and apps on Facebook. So, I don't see people leaving Facebook unless Buzz is 1000 times better.

    That said, I don't know how many people will switch to Facemail either. Switching email can be done more easily, but it's still a pain because you have to get all your contacts to start using the new email account. If you use the email account for business and have it on print media, then it's even more difficult (but then again, why would you use gmail for your business? You know you should have an email account at your own domain name ;).

    So, my prediction is Buzz will get some use, but probably only 5-10% of the market. I think Facemail has a better chance of getting people to setup facemail accounts, but most people will still keep their current email accounts.

  6. I think it depends on how Google fleshes it out. Google is a part of my everyday life. I post pictures to Picasa, I use gmail, I use Google Docs to keep school papers and other work, I use Wave to make plans with friends and collaborate on projects, I use Voice to organize my voicemail, I use Talk to chat with friends, I use Aardvark to get odd questions answered, I use Reader to get my news updates, YouTube for videos, and Calendar for appointments and such. All of these features come in a neat little package, for the most part.

    I use Facebook to… well.. I guess see what friend's are up to. Hey, isn't that what Google Buzz does?! As an avid user of Google products, the choice for me is a no brainer. The only thing Facebook can do right now is the goofy little games people spend hours on, like Farm Town, and Mafia Wars.

    I absolutely see where you're coming from. It will be incredibly hard for Google to pull people from Facebook, but I'm not sure if that's their goal. I see Buzz as a supplement for social networking, for now, at least. The fact that you can plug so many things into it is proof in the pudding of that: Picasa, Talk, Reader, YouTube, and yes even Twitter are all hooked into my Buzz account. Only time will tell how well it does.

    • Rus, I can see where you're coming from. I think Google Buzz has a fair shot of picking up some of the 6% of people who use Gmail like you do.

      I'm curious… What % of the friends you want to keep up with are on FB vs Gmaill? Do you plan to use both Buzz and Facebook?

  7. I've waited a week or so before commenting on this.

    Maybe it's my age, maybe it's the thought "not another thing" but I just don't see buzz being the killer app. Much live wave, it had an initial splash (intentional pun) but like a stone dropped in a lake the ripples are getting smaller to the point where it is insignificant.

    I've connected with a bunch of folks via twitter that I also communicate with via gmail yet buzz hasn't picked up on these folks for auto follow – yourself for one (though you may not hav eused a gmail address). Buzz doesn't allow me to wander round profiles like I can with twitter and the only usage buzz gets here is with folks who have linked it to their twitter stream.

    As for facemail. yeah I'd use it but will it be a gmail killer – again I don't think so. One of teh nich things of gmail is the speed of access and simplicity of its interface. Could FB resist the urge to tamper, tamper and tamper again with the interface? They haven't thus far and their privacy record is poor. As to speed, there are times that FB crawls to a halt but gmail has only done that the once since I started using it in late 2004.

    That sort of reliability can't be sniffed at.

    • Stuart, thanks for your comment. I agree. Buzz seems like one more thing to me. And for Facemail to gain market share it will have to be good and reliable.

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