When Google announced Google Buzz, its new social sharing feature for Gmail, company representatives admitted Buzz was inspired by a similar product: Google Wave. In fact, some of the features of Buzz and Wave are so similar you might be wondering why there are two different products in the first place?
Both services are supposed to help you create conversations and give you a richer experience around Web-based media like videos, images ,and regular text. But while Buzz and Wave have a lot in common, there also some key differences that set each service apart.
Wave and Buzz? What the heck are you talking about?
Google describes Wave as "an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more." Basically, Google Wave is e-mail, instant messaging, an online collaboration tool and a wiki all rolled into one service.
But Google Buzz is designed solely to let you share videos, photos, links, and status updates with others just like you would on Facebook or Twitter. You can access Buzz through your Gmail inbox or through your mobile device's Web browser.
Real-time communication versus e-mail conversation
While you will receive Buzz updates very quickly via e-mail, communication in Google Wave is much faster. Unlike Buzz, communication in Wave happens in real time, and you can actually watch someone typing out their response or comment on an individual wave. That's a big difference, since it allows Wave users to easily collaborate on a project.
Wave is about collaboration, Buzz is about conversation
Wave was built on collaborative features like editing a document, planning an event, creating meeting notes, and so on. But if you just want to share photos, videos, or comments that don't require real-time communication, then Google Buzz is probably the better option.
Waving is complex, Buzzing not so much
One of the problems with Wave is that it's a difficult tool to explain to others, and once you understand what Wave is it's even harder to understand everything you can do with it. Buzz, on the other hand, works similarly to e-mail and is focused on one thing: sharing content with others.
Buzz is a gateway to Wave
In a lot of ways, Buzz is a halfway point between regular e-mail and Wave. For example, when you get an updated Buzz in your inbox or Buzz tab, it displays the various comments and media that have been shared as a list. As the Buzz develops, that list gets updated and edited, but you only ever have one copy of an individual Buzz in your inbox.
Similarly, in Wave you only ever see one copy of an active wave, making it easier to track changes to a document or conversation. But new e-mail messages pile on top of one another, and it doesn't take long before you end up with these massive conversation strings that are constantly being replicated every time you hit the reply button.
So my guess, as well as the guess of others, is that once you're comfortable with Buzz, you might be more willing to use Wave for collaborative online projects. But the trick will be to get you to buy into using Google Buzz, and that may be a tough sell if you're already used to sharing items with your existing networks on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
Have you tried Google Buzz yet? What's your take?
If Google Buzz hasn't shown up in your inbox yet, PCWorld has a workaround that lets you try out Buzz right now on your desktop or smartphone.
Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).