GOOGLE IS TO press the mute button on Buzz, its social networking service that began in ignominy and failed to capture the imagination.
Buzz will be shut down within the next few weeks, according to a post published on Google’s blog yesterday.
“Changing the world takes focus on the future, and honesty about the past,” Bradley Horowitz, a Google vice president, wrote. “We learned a lot from products like Buzz, and are putting that learning to work every day in our vision for products like Google Plus.”
The 20-month-old service probably won’t be missed – indeed, Buzz will most likely be remembered as Google’s botched attempt to build a social network to rival Facebook’s online hangout.
Google now is focusing its social networking efforts on Plus, a three-month-old service that has done far better at securing public use.
Plus already has more than 40 million users, and Google chief executive Larry Page seems confident that it will become an effective weapon for fighting the threat posed by Facebook and its audience of 800 million users.
In a conference call earlier this week to discuss Google’s third-quarter earnings, Page promised the company will be weaving more of the company’s products into Plus to ensure that users get an “automagical” experience.
Buzz got into trouble at its launch because of the way Google tied it to its Gmail webmail service.
After it was activated, Buzz automatically created social circles that exposed users’ most frequent Gmail contacts for everyone to see. That transparency went down badly with people whose contact lists included secret lovers, ex-spouses, doctors and prospective employers.
Google overhauled Buzz to give people more control over their information, but the changes came too late to placate outrage users and privacy watchdogs.
The uproar triggered an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which reprimanded Google for violating its own privacy policies. Google apologized for its lapse and entered into a settlement requiring Google to submit its privacy program to independent audits every other year for the next two decades.
The search giant agreed to give $8.5 million to Internet privacy and policy organisations to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by Gmail users.
Buzz will join more than 20 other products and services that Page has closed since he replaced Eric Schmidt as CEO in April.
Page says he wants to “put more wood behind fewer arrows” as Google tries to maintain its dominance of Internet search and advertising while it duels with Apple Inc. for supremacy in the increasingly important smartphone market.
The strategy seems to be paying off so far. Google third-quarter earnings rose 26 per cent to $2.7 billion, shattering analyst estimates. The performance lifted Google’s stock price by nearly 6 per cent.