Put aside the outing of private contacts and the involuntary public exposure of your fascinating profile -- Google's hasty introduction of Buzz is a desperate attempt to join in-the-know crowd. Why is Google so desperate? One reason: Internet traffic patterns are changing rapidly. Twitter's growth is exploding and Facebook is like a sponge soaking up more and more user time.
Like no other service, Google has been best at fetching the encyclopedic knowledge and minute trivia that's scattered across the Net. But almost like a blind spot, Google has been less adept at sniffing out topics right below its nose. In the world of immediacy, the most pressing topics are those being trafficked at the moment. Twitter's stream of headline-length entries and embedded-story links has become a real-time information channel and a view of what millions of people currently find important. The attraction of this live feed is evident in Twitter's user growth, which surged more than 1,000% last year. Twitter's sweet spot as manager of the info flow caused Microsoft ( MSFT) and Google to purchase their own Twitter feeds to supplement their search services. And when people aren't tweeting, they seem to be writing on walls or updating their status on Facebook. Users of Facebook, the fourth most popular U.S. Internet site, spend more than three times as much time on the site than they do at Google -- the No. 1 most visited site. The average user spent seven hours on Facebook in January, up 10% from December, according to a recent Nielsen Online report. Google users stayed an hour and 23 minutes on average in January, a decline of 17% from the prior month.