Google Is Dancing as Fast as It Can With Buzz

Google (s goog), just two days after making substantial changes to Buzz, and less than a week after the service first launched, has again altered the terms of its new chat platform to try and respond to privacy concerns from some vocal users. But will the latest changes be enough to dampen the flames of criticism and get people to focus on the service’s positive features instead of its negative ones? In his blog post about the latest changes, product manager Todd Jackson said the Google team had been “working around the clock” to respond to users’ concerns, including the auto-following of contacts from Gmail and GTalk, which some found disturbing. He wrote:

With Google Buzz, we wanted to make the getting started experience as quick and easy as possible, so that you wouldn’t have to manually peck out your social network from scratch. However, many people just wanted to check out Buzz and see if it would be useful to them, and were not happy that they were already set up to follow people.

Now, instead of auto-following everyone in your Gmail contacts, Buzz will simply show you a list of the contacts you are connected to whom you might want to follow, and then let you decide whether to do so or not. As more than one person has pointed out, this changes the service from an explicitly opt-out process to an opt-in one — which is likely to be a lot less intrusive for those who are sensitive about displaying their email contacts to the world.

In two other notable changes, Google will no longer connect your Picasa web albums and Google Reader shared items automatically (even though that just displayed content that was already public). And a new Buzz tab has been added to the settings in Gmail, which will allow users to either hide Buzz or disable it completely. This is no doubt a response to the numerous “How to disable Buzz” blog posts and discussion threads that sprang up in the wake of the service’s launch.

The fact that they need to make this many changes to Buzz may be further evidence that the members of the Google Buzz team are nerds at the dance, but at least they’re dancing as fast as they can — and they’re not shy about saying they need help learning the steps. But wouldn’t it have been easier if they asked people about this kind of stuff before they launched the product?

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Post photo courtesy of Flickr user teo_ladodici