Googlers Talk Buzz's 'Scar,' Launch In <i>In The Plex</i>

Would You Have Used Google Taco Town?

Google Buzz's development, launch, and "scar" are discussed in Steven Levy's new book, In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, And Shapes Our Lives.

In his description of the product's origins, Levy explains that Google Buzz's original codename was "Taco Town."

Named after the infamous Saturday Night Live sketch, the project's original name "reflected Googlers' judgment of the Internet's current social strategy: big messy layers of greasy, unwholesome stuff whose caloric volume tried to compensate," Levy writes.

Google Buzz was later renamed "Buzz" because the term evoked the "crackling interaction it would presumably generate," Levy notes. In 2009, Google product vice president Bradley Horowitz reportedly predicted that the service would "blow Twitter away."

Though the FTC would later charge Google with "deceptive privacy practices" surrounding the launch of Google Buzz, Levy writes that Buzz's privacy issues were not on Google's radar at the time the product debuted.

During a rehearsal of the Buzz press conference, which involved practicing responses to questions reporters might ask, "none of the questions [asked by Google's PR staff] touched on whether there might be privacy concerns in building an instant social network based on one's email contacts," notes Levy.

"We knew we were doing something dangerous, taking a private space and opening it up to a social activity," Horowitz told Levy. He also suggested Facebook had set certain precedents with regard to social media and what was accepted: "But we thought that after Facebook and other services this was something people were used to," Horowitz added.

Though Google tried to quickly address Buzz's privacy issues and was forced to make a number of updates, the damage had been done.

"We should have known people were gunning for us," Bradley told Levy. The privacy problem he said was "a scar that will stay with the product forever."

Read more about Levy's book here.

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