Google launches their new social service, Google+

If you spend time on Google or any of its services, then you may have seen the new black menu bar. Many wondered if this was just some new design from Google. As it turns out, that black bar is a sign from Google that something big is coming. That something is Google+.

Google+ is the newest of Google’s projects to go into invitation beta. While its not Google’s first run at building a social network, Google+ is probably the most extensive. That doesn’t mean that Google is making a big deal of it yet, however. They are trying to keep it quiet, lest it get the build up to a fail that Wave had. You can take a look at the introductory video here.

From the official blog post, Google+ is really designed around Google itself. Their hope is to redesign the way we share online. They will group people into “Circles”, which you get to organize as you see fit. As of now, it pulls contacts from Gmail or Google Contacts.

Once you have circles set up, you get the ability to interact with those people. You can share images, links, or articles. You can even take advantage of “Sparks”, which will allow you to strike up conversations with people in your Circles. Google + also has a video chat service built in that is called “Hangouts” and a mobile application available for Android devices.

This mobile aspect of Google+ seems vital to the service. Google  promises  the easiest media  uploading  of any social media service. They are also  advertising  the “Huddle” feature, which is similar to texting. unlike traditional text messaging, you use data, similar to BlackBerry Messenger or Beluga.

From what I can tell, the potential for Google+ to be big is there.  What  remains to be seen is whether or not Google+ will actually be successful. As of now, it is in an invitation only beta. In order to check out any of these features, you need to be invited to that beta. I know i have signed up for it and hope to get in soon. If you want to check it out, you can sign up here.

 

Google Buzz Gives Away $8.5 Million

buzzDo you remember that Google was sued for privacy violations when they first released their Google Buzz? I’d forgotten all about it. Buzz was introduced in February of this year and was considered Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter.

During the first few days, Buzz revealed users personal contacts by default, and many people were very upset about this violation. They soon corrected the problem by offering more controls over the information shared, and an easy way to opt out of the service, but the law suit continued despite this change.

Today, I received an email from Google, announcing a settlement for this class action suit.   Here’s what they said:

Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we’ve reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (http://buzz.google.com), a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.
The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users’ concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.

Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at http://www.BuzzClassAction.com.

I would guess that the lawyers are the only ones making money on this deal. That’s true of many class action suits. I’d be surprised if any of the defendants collect a penny. So far, the money is going to (non-profit?) organizations to help them educate people on privacy issues.

I think this loss is a win for Google. It’s hard to imagine that losing a few million dollars hurts them. It may help them, as long as they keep this privacy lesson in mind when they release a new product.

I enjoy using Google Buzz more than Twitter or Facebook, and encourage you to give Buzz a try. Here’s my Buzz timeline as an example of what you can do there.


90% of Google Buzz is Spam, the Rest 10% Are Just Lone Bees

Google buzz fell flat after 10 weeks of its launch. The current state of Google Buzz is such that there are fewer people using it, more of them leaving it and even fewer bothering to try it out. Google Buzz had initial problems with exposing contact lists and probably, this has taken a toll on the awesome tool launched by Google.

Postrank blog writes,

we were really excited about the buzz around Google Buzz (pardon the pun), as it meant more social engagement data that we could integrate into our system. Which we did. PostRank now tracks all of the public Buzz feeds. However, after doing some careful data analysis, the quality of the Buzz feeds is, well, questionable.

Google Buzz has around 60% of its content coming from Twitter and almost 27% of it is from automated RSS feeds. That leaves a mere 11% of content which is purely typed in by the user. These statistics show that Buzz is losing out. This makes the Buzz it button on websites useless as there is no-one to buzz the topic. It is only going into the Buzz stream one-time.

Though in my opinion, it is too early to call this service a flop. Google has integrated this service into Gmail and if done right, it has a huge potential. It is powerful enough to thrive in a world of Twitter and Facebook which are its direct competitors. 10% of original user generated content in 10 weeks cannot be called bad if not impressive enough.

Get Official Google Buzz Buttons For your Website

Google has launched official “Buzz this” buttons for bloggers and webmasters and you can create your own Google buzz buttons from this page. The buttons can be easily integrated in your blog or website, just paste in a simple Javascript code and the button goes live.

Using the Google buzz button, the visitors of your blog can quickly share posts in their “Buzz network”. You can completely customize the size and look of the buttons to fit it in your blog template.

Basically, there are two types of buttons to choose from – a “Follow me on Buzz” button and a “Post to Buzz” button. The former acts as a link to your buzz profile, anyone can click the button to start following you on Google buzz. The latter acts as a way to share a webpage in Google buzz, just like the Digg and Tweetmeme buttons discussed earlier.

Customize the “Post to Buzz” Button: You can customize the “Post to Buzz” button to show the counter, the button or both of them. Other features include showing the counter on top or right, defining a custom URL type for the post and showing a custom image as well. The impressive thing is that you can choose a custom language for the “Google Buzz” buttons, which is definitely a new idea. Currently, the buttons supports 59 international languages.

Promote your Google Buzz Account using “Follow on Buzz” button: If you would like to promote your Google buzz account, use the “Follow on Buzz button. Your blog visitors can start following you on Google buzz, without having to leave the page they are reading. Works much the same way as the “Post to Buzz” button, but this one doesn’t have much options available for customization.

Official Google Buzz App For Android Released

After the recent release of the Orkut app for Android, Google has also released a official app for based devices.

Google Buzz Android

The Google Buzz app for Android is a widget for phones running Android v1.6 and later. The Buzz app will allow you to post text and photos with a single tap. In addition to that, you can also tag your post with your current location or place you posted it from.

Once you have posted the message, the Buzz app will process it in the background, so that you can continue performing other tasks without having to wait.

The Google Buzz app is available in the Android Market, just head over there and search for Google Buzz. To add the widget to your home screen, go to "Menu" and select "Add > Widgets > Google Buzz". Currently, the Google Buzz app is only available in English, with support for future languages coming soon.

Google Buzz Gets Smart, Offers Better Notification Controls

has not been a big a success they would have wanted it to be, thanks to privacy issues and problems that many users faced.

However, looks like Google is applying some much needed changes to how Buzz works by allowing users to control how notifications work for them and what should be delivered to their Inbox.

Also Read: Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks for Google Buzz

In a recent change, Google has been offering users to control how they receive alerts for new Buzzes in their Inbox. For example, when you visit "Settings -> Buzz" in your Gmail account, you will see the following options.

buzz_notification_settings

Using the option above you will be able to control how alerts are sent to your Gmail Inbox. In addition to that, if you chose to receive the Buzz alerts, you will also be shown a reason as to why you have received an email.

buzz_notification_reasons

All in all a pretty decent update to Buzz, as many users have been pulling their heads apart on receiving tons of unwanted Buzz updates in their Inbox. More info available at the Official Google Blog, oh and don’t forget to check out the top more tips for using Buzz on by Google.

Webby Wednesday: Google Buzz Counter, Free Online Image Editor, Online Radio and Self Destructing Messages

Welcome to another episode of , where we talk about new web applications and services, which are useful for our readers.

This week, we have several new and interesting services which will make your day-to-day computing life much more easier.

Google Buzz Tools

Google Buzz Counter

Last time around we told you about some interesting tools and services for Google Buzz. However, since then couple of new services have been created. The first one is Buzz Aware, which is an apps directory for and the other is Buzrr, a Google Buzz counter.

Buzzr is similar to Tweetmeme for , and counts the number of buzzes and ranks them according to the highest Buzz count. It also allows users to re-buzz a buzzed item. In addition to that, it also allows users to add a Buzrr button to their website or WordPress blog.

Picmeleo: Integrate Photo Editing On Your Site

Free Online Image Editor

Looking to create a image driven site? Picmeleo will allow you to go beyond just image uploading by offering integration of their Online image editor into your website for free.

Picmeleo offers users to crop image, remove red eyes, rotate the images, change brightness and contrast and filters such as Grayscale, Sharpen and more. Website integration is pretty easy too, all you need to do is copy a few lines of code and you have a full-fledged image editor on your site.

Want the free online image editor for your site? Head over to Picmeleo to get yours.

Community Driven Online Radio

Online Radio Spreaker

Spreaker is a new web service which allows users to create their own radio shows and host it online. Spreaker allows users to easily mix live audio input from your microphone, play songs and more. So if you are looking for a career in DJing or planning to become a radio jockey, get your hands wet with Spreaker.

Create Self-Destructing Messages

Self Destructing Messages

Quite sometime back we had told you about Privnote, a private note creator, which allowed users to create self-destruction messages. This Message Will Self Destruct, is a similar service which allows users to create password-protected self-destructing messages, which will be deleted after someone views it once. So are you the next James Bond? Try your luck here.

Hope you have fun with the web applications this week. Want to share your own? Add your web application or software to the Techie Buzz forum so that we can feature it here next.

Google Buzz Tools: Search Engine, Widget Creator, Browser Extensions and Add-ons and Desktop Tool

has not made a splash as expected, however, it is slowly being used by a wider range of people. So what about a Google Buzz search engine, or a tool to access Buzz from your desktop or a Google Buzz widget creator?

Well, Google is definitely not working on creating any of the above things, but we have you covered, here are some nice tools which will allow you to use Google Buzz better.

Recommended Read: Ultimate List of Tips and Tricks for Google Buzz

Google Buzz Search Engine

google_buzz_search_engine

Buzzzy is a search engine which allows you to search for topics across several social networking sites, including , FriendFeed, Google Reader and Google Buzz.

When you search for a term using Buzzzy, it will crawl the public timeline on the social networking sites and display results to you from them. Pretty useful if you want to see who is sharing your content on Google Reader and Google Buzz. For Twitter, you might want to take a look at how to track your brand or website on Twitter.

Google Buzz Extensions and Add-ons for Browsers

If you are a user, there are quite a few   you can make use of. For the simple update counter, you can make use of Google Buzz Checker. Mobile Buzz allows you to access the mobile version of Buzz from within Google Chrome and Chrome Buzz allows you to view updates from your friends, and post to Buzz and comment.

There are a few extensions for Firefox users as well, including an extension called Buzz it, which will allow you to add any webpage to Buzz. An extension called WiseStamp, which allows you to add your latest buzz update as your Gmail signature

Google Buzz Widget

google_buzz_widget

Want to share your Google Buzz updates with the rest of the world? Buzz Counter is a handy service which will allow you to create a widget out of your Buzz updates and display it on any webpage. Please note that you will have to make your profile public for this widget to work.

Google Buzz for Desktop

Many social networking services can be accessed through your desktop. However, Google Buzz is not that highly adopted yet, but a tool called Google Buzz for Desktop will allow you to access Google Buzz from your desktop. However, this tool is far from usable right now.

Are you using any other tools to access Google Buzz? Do share them with us through your comments.

Google Faces Lawsuit From Federal Court Due To Privacy Issues with Google Buzz

So what’s keeping the Google Buzz team busy these days? Security issues, criticism and fall of expectations? Wait, they have recently faced a lawsuit from a federal court in USA.

google-lawsuit

Image credit

Acording to a report by SFgate, a class action complaint has been filed in SanJose federal court against Google Inc, for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The complaint is filed because Google Buzz shared personal data of users without their consent. The case was filed on behalf of Eva Hibnick, a law firm employee from San Francisco.

Now, what’s this “personal data” shared in Google Buzz which resulted in violating the CFAA act?

Google Buzz, as you may know lets users post updates, links, photos ,videos from Gmail. Integrating the social circle with Gmail sounds like a good idea but the followers are pre selected based on whom you interact with most often. This is determined by your chat buddies and the people whom you email frequently.

So far so good, but those people could automatically see all the other followers and information shared in other Google services such as Google Reader and Picasa.

Here is a case study:

One woman complained that this configuration allowed her abusive ex-husband and his friends to begin following private comments she had been sharing with her boyfriend   on Google Reader,   a free Web content aggregation service also hooked into Buzz.

Eva Hibnick, is trying to bring the complaint on behalf of all Gmail users whose accounts were automatically linked to their Buzz profiles. On this issue, a Google spokesperson said

We haven’t yet been served, so we can’t comment on the suit until we’ve had a chance to review it.

The Google public policy blog has a couple of posts, in the past few weeks how to control privacy with Google Buzz by removing Buzz from profiles and the like. Meanwhile, check out the ultimate list of Google Buzz tips and tricks.

Disable Google Buzz Profile and Delete It Forever

After a bit of a problem and complaints to the FTC by a public group over Buzz, Google has finally decided to give users a way to completely disable and delete a profile.

Delete Google Buzz Profile or Disable It

The new feature to disable and delete a Google Buzz profile is now part of Gmail Settings. So if you are someone who wants to send Google Buzz into oblivion just head over to Settings -> Buzz and make the changes you require. Good riddance :-).

If you are a Google Buzz user, do tell us your experience about it. It definitely has a long way to go and we hope to see significant changes in the future. you are a new Google Buzz user, check out our of Tips and Tricks for Google Buzz.

Note: Google is gradually rolling this out to user accounts, so not everyone will be able to see Buzz in their settings right away.