The Fatal Flaw in the Google Buzz Interface


Share on LinkedIn

Is “fatal flaw” too strong a term?  Maybe.  Then again, maybe not.

First off, what is Google Buzz?  It’s Google’s new shot-across-the-bow to Facebook and Twitter, an attempt to integrate real-time web interactions with the well-known and widely-used Gmail interface.

However, Buzz does two things that will simply make it unusable.

  1. It shows threaded conversations and strongly highlights the initiator of those conversations, and makes the comments subservient to the initial post.
  2. It takes posts that have “new” comments and immediately bumps those posts to the topmost position of the viewing window.

This interface will greatly reinforce the existing power law relationships online, and have the effect of greatly reducing the serendipity and interestingness in things like the current Twitter and Facebook interfaces. 

With Buzz, those who (a) have a large number of followers, and (b) post frequently will always bubble up to the top of the stack, crowding out everything else.  Currently, I’m following about 200 people, which (you would think) would give me a great diversity in my stream.  However, the top twenty one spots of my Buzz feed are held by:

  • Chris Messina
  • Jason Calacanis
  • Jason Calacanis
  • Josh Druck
  • Jason Calacanis
  • Francine Hardaway
  • Derek Powazek
  • Steve Rubel
  • Robert Scoble
  • Brady Smith
  • Robert Scoble
  • Robert Scoble
  • Michael Elliot
  • Rex Hammock
  • Josh Druck
  • Josh Druck
  • Chris Pirillo
  • Josh Druck
  • Josh Druck
  • Josh Druck
  • Danny Sullivan

Worse, whenever anyone makes a comment in any of those threads, that thread pops back to the top.

In other words, it appears one can never get past the most chatty threads.  They’ll always bounce back to the top.  Those individuals with many connections will almost always have the chattiest threads.  Ergo, the Buzz interface will, in its current incarnation, always be dominated by those with the largest, chattiest networks.

Screen shot 2010-02-10 at 3.01.31 PM 

Can Google figure out a way to turn off that “always bubble the newest to the top” feature?  Of course they can.  And they need to.  If they don’t, Buzz instantly becomes an echo-chamber of the highest-order, and becomes completely unusable.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Carfi
Ant's Eye View
Social Business strategist advising clients such as Google, HP, Cisco, P&G and others.


  1. The “always bubble the newest to the top” is completely frustrating. I unfollowed Mashable for that very reason.

    I’m optimistic that changes will happen down the road.

  2. Here is another response I saw over and over and over again: As long as Google is the world’s prime publisher – I won’t use it for anything but chatter. or this one: “Google is in the business to unearth anything humanely possible – not with my email”.
    Corporations won;t trust Google and so I guess this is off.

    Google’s attempt to go into the social web reminds me to Microsoft’s attempt to build hardware (back in the days). Come on Eric, you are a good search engine and an OK advertising agency. Focus 😉


  3. I really like Robert Scoble, but I had to unfollow him on Buzz for it to be anything other than all Scoble, all the time.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here