Makes Mouths Happy

published by Eric Mill on

Look, I don't really know a hell of a lot about Google Buzz. It's not even enabled in my Gmail account yet. (Though I can "see the buzz" around places in my new Google Maps update for my Android phone.) But, a few things are pretty plain to me.

People comparing it to Foursquare or Yelp and declaring it a ripoff are missing the boat. It doesn't compete with either of those. The thing it's closest to is Friendfeed but honestly Friendfeed has never appealed to me, as Yet Another Thing To Track.

Google Buzz may have the same problems, but it's just going to do a lot better because it's right there. Did people complain when Google launched GTalk inside Gmail, and complain about it "ripping off" AIM, or fragmenting the busy IM market? No, people just started using it, and now more of my friends are on GTalk than are not.

The craziest thing about Google Buzz, the thing that I'm the most excited about, despite not having actually used it yet, is this: http://code.google.com/apis/buzz/documentation/

Look at that fucking lefthand sidebar. Pubsubhubbub ("PuSH"), Salmon Webfinger and OAuth OAuth is starting to take off on its own, largely thanks to Twitter, but the other three are much different. PuSH, Salmon, and Webfinger have all been flying under a lot of people's radars, but they represent the future of the web. They are open, decentralized, and contain all the lessons we as an Internet have learned over the past 10 years.

Gist of each:

  • Pubsubhubbub notifies subscribers when you post something to the Internet, unlike RSS where subscribers have to keep checking. PuSH makes things travel around the Internet instantly, and flips a fundamental assumption about the Web - that you post something and then wait for people to discover it - on its head.
  • Webfinger is a bit like OpenID, but around your email instead of a URL, which is way easier for people to understand. It's also more powerful; you can connect other services (like OpenID to it.
  • Salmon is the other half of Pubsubhubbub, for comments. This is newer to me, and less revolutionary, but solves the problems I was having when thinking about how to get PuSH to work in both directions for articles and comments for my new blog, and realizing PuSH wasn't ideal for comments.

I wish I'd written about them here before; I've already been planning on doing Pubsubhubbub integration with my new website, which I'm working on actively, and which will replace this site entirely. In fact, part of that plan has also been to aggregate all my activity elsewhere, Friendfeed/Buzz-style (but optimized for me). I feel validated in that plan now, and extra motivated to carry it out.

With every open standard we adopt, with every decentralized protocol we weave into our communication, the Internet becomes more resilient, more intelligent, and harder to oppress. Even if Google Buzz becomes a flop like Wave seems to be, if it gives Webfinger and Pubsubhubbub the boost they need to see mainstream adoption, then all of our futures will be brighter for it.


  1. Luigi Montanez

    It's really the Facebook Feed that Google Buzz competes against. The rest of the stuff, like events and groups and games have no equivalent within Buzz itself.

    This posting by a Google engineer working on Buzz should further warm your heart:

    http://www.google.com/buzz/dclinton/XxER6oP4WGe/The-best-way-to-get-a-sense-of-where-the-Buzz-API

  2. Eric Mill

    Gmail also has nowhere near a majority or plurality of email - "Yahoo and Microsoft still dominate":http://techcrunch.com/2009/08/14/gmail-nudges-past-aol-email-in-the-us-to-take-no-3-spot/. But I wouldn't call Gmail a minor player in the email world.

    Right now, PuSH is just being used as a faster RSS, but I think the ramifications of push publishing in general are bigger than that. It's so vastly more efficient, and provides a specific event architecture when right now we're all sort of winging it with plain RSS, I think you'll see it being used in ways we can't imagine right now.

    Webfinger is a lot more than OpenID. OpenID verifies identity - Webfinger attaches information to an identity. To let people log in to your site with Webfinger, for instance, you'd look up their info through Webfinger, find the attached OpenID, and verify the user through that. But since you can attach anything to Webfinger, include links to accounts on other sites, public keys, arbitrary stuff, really, Webfinger can do a lot more than OpenID.

    After reading your post, and the more I think about it, the more I think you're right - Facebook is the main competitor here. I'm interested in seeing how Buzz stacks up against Facebook. I like that Buzz brings in content from outside, instead of just generating it internally, and then allows people to discuss it (and provides those discussions themselves to the outside world via API). That is the polar opposite approach of Facebook's walled garden, and yet Google still gets to have a certain brand ownership of the activity happening within. It's how social networking should be done.

  3. Ed S.

    Your post inspired me to write my own post about Buzz, but I have a few comments for you.

    Most of my friends use Talk over AIM, but the last time I heard, AIM had something like 300 times the users that Talk has (not to mention Yahoo Messenger). I can't find the relevant source, but the notion was clear that Talk is a minor player in the chat world.

    Pubsubhubhub is cool, but it's not that revolutionary. It replaces RSS, but the net result is just faster RSS. Webfinger is cool too, but again, it's just an extension of OpenID. Salmon is the cooler part; it can allow for much wider conversations across user groups that would not otherwise happen, and that is cool.

    And finally, it seems clear to me the competitor of Buzz is Facebook, not those other minor sites (though obviously Buzz borrowed some of their ideas). This is what I will be mostly writing about on my blag.