If anything, you’d think Google would have gone to school on the uproar Facebook ran into with Beacon, and modified their plans accordingly. But it didn’t happen.
Google’s main effort at social networking, Orkut, was an abortive effort to compete with Friendster after the original social networking site turned down a huge buyout offer. Orkut turned out to be a huge success…in Brazil. As best I can tell, Buzz was meant to be the long sought-after holy grail that would be the repository for all social media from elsewhere – Twitter, Flickr, RSS, whatever – into one easy-to-read stream that would be right there in your GMail – and everyone uses GMail, obviously, right?
The problem is that unless you were in the Valley, or a total bithead, you had no idea this was coming. And when people opened GMail last week, they found a new splash page asking if they wanted to learn about Buzz. And if you clicked “no” – well, you were just skipping the intro, because it was live anyway. And you automatically had followers. Culled from your email. Pretty much at random. Including, in at least one now-famous case, an abused woman’s ex-husband. And throughout the Internet, a consensus: for the first time, publicly and indisputably, Google shit the bed. Massively.
The state of affairs has reached a point where every time Facebook rolls out something new, you have to go back and look through the settings and make sure your privacy hasn’t been compromised any further. Buzz has now made that a requirement for Google as well. If a company’s business model depends on selling your information, keeping yours private is taking money out of their pockets – and they can hardly be expected to hold them open for you.