By Harry McCracken | Friday, February 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm
The hubbub over Google Buzz’s conversion of your most frequent e-mail contacts into followers that anyone can see may die down eventually. Right now, though, it feels like the controversy is still heading towards the boiling point. And I think that Buzz’s basically confusing design isn’t helping matters.
If Search Engine Land has its facts straight–which it generally does–Google may end the melodrama decisively by simply removing Buzz from Gmail. That would be kind of stunning, since its integration into Gmail was one of the key features that Google trumpeted back on Tuesday when it announced Buzz. But stranger things have happened.
[UPDATE: Search Engine Land has updated its story, and says it didn’t mean to suggest that Horowitz said Google was considering completely detaching Buzz from Gmail over privacy concerns.]
I think it would be a shame if Google went that far, and I don’t see why Buzz can’t be a good citizen within the Gmail framework. The company has already fiddled with Buzz’s default settings a bit. But can’t it end the Buzz discontent immediately by making it a cakewalk to simply skip the conversion of e-mail contacts into followers in the first place? Make Buzz accounts start with you following nobody by default; allow the e-mail contact conversion as an option, with an excruciatingly clear explanation of what’s happening.
Do that, Google, and you could confidently tell the world that the default state of Buzz is privacy. And virtually everyone who made their most-contacted list public would be doing so intentionally.