You Got Your Peanut Butter in My Inbox

At the outset let me make this perfectly clear. I don’t want to find even one of your Farmville animals in my inbox.

My Gmail account has yet to be “upgraded” to the new Google Buzz, but according to the laws of the blogosphere, that hardly disqualifies me from giving a detailed opinion on the offering.

On the product side, I think this is an obvious move for Google. They’re attempting to leverage an existing userbase to leap above Twitter and Facebook to be your first stop for sharing the web. The product is both familiar and will likely leave more than a few stealth start-ups feeling ill. I’ve given a lot of thought the aggregation issue and have even specked out products that unify one’s streams. But here’s what worries me. This is my email were talking about.

Email is one of the few remaining places on this screen where I still have some occasional personal contact with other people I really know. There is a difference between this one to one contact and other areas where I share on the web. On Facebook, I share with friends. On Twitter I share with everyone. But email was supposed to just be about me and you.

The idea of merging the streams into a sort of unified sharing platform makes perfect business and product sense. But it also further blurs the line between real relationships, virtual relationships and the broader, nonstop pulse of the extended web.

This blurring of the line has been a constant theme in my life. When I was a kid, my parents and I habitually watched the news and many of our conversations were based on the topics covered on CNN. After I went away to college, this was a typical phone exchange between me and my dad.

Me: Hello

Dad: Vhat’s Cooking?

Me: Not much

Dad: Vell. Vhat do you think of this Gorbachev guy?

My dad and I could barely distinguish the difference between our actual family life and the broader global implications of Perestroika. How can addicted web users maintain any kind of focus when their laptop and other devices blend together every bit of information into one stream?

One of the things I love about the Google Super Bowl ad is that every query (going to paris, grabbing a coffee, scoring) leads to an offline, real world experience. Google Buzz is about having yet another experience on the web. I prefer Google the tool to Google the place.

But ultimately someone will win the battle to own the place on the net where all our incoming bits merge into one stream. It just pays to make sure you leave yourself a place to think.

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