When I logged on to my Gmail account today, a page automatically popped up asking me to try out Buzz, the social network that Google unveiled at a press conference yesterday. I'm already on Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, and Skype (the latter two added when Inc. commenced its month of working remotely last week), so I'm a bit networked out. But I gave it a whirl anyway.
Here's how it works: Like Facebook, you can use it to update your status and share photos and videos, but on Buzz, videos appear within status messages, and photos pop up in a gallery for easier viewing. Buzz is integrated with Gmail, so it's easy to add your email and chat contacts. It also can be integrated with Twitter and Google Reader, as well as photo sharing sites Picasa and Flickr. Comments go to your Gmail inbox; you can respond via email or Buzz. Of course, privacy is a big issue on other social networking sites, so Buzz makes it easy to choose whether you want to share your posts with everyone, or with just your contacts.
There is Buzz for mobile phones as well. I haven't tried it out yet, but according to Google, it has some handy mapping functionality that lets you add your location, along with a map, to a post. (Though this could come in handy when you're arranging a meeting, there is an obvious stalker concern.) You also can add a "Buzz layer" to a Google map to see nearby contacts. Another neat feature of the mobile app is the ability to speak a Buzz post into your phone instead of typing.
It's difficult to form an opinion on Buzz at this point, considering the only other person who seems to be on it is my colleague Max Chafkin. Given the mediocre reception of Google Wave, I'm not quite sure Buzz will generate much excitement. But the network's integration with Gmail might make it a no-brainer for fans of the webmail program. Apparently Google has a business-friendly version of the program in the works as well, so stay tuned.