So I’ve decided to save part II of Showdown in the O.S. Corral until I actually get my hands on Buzz and manipulate it a bit over the next day or two. Apparently Google doesn’t think I’m important enough as an online journalist to give an early copy to. Pssh. Tsch. Pfft.

In the meantime, allow me to wax poetic (and I promise, this isn’t another 3am posting with random ramblings and old west references that simply serve as a teaser to nowhere. Not that the last post was! That teaser went to here:¬† See? Not pointless. Very important to this post in fact. Segue!)

Back in the 90s, everyone I knew had their own self-created pages on Angel Fire. They’d spend hours writing HTML, formatting their personalized pages with backslashes, parenthesis, and less than signs. Because I always wanted to be a part of whatever was going on (and was a closeted tech dork at that point, as being a teenager was awkward enough) I quietly hit up our little town’s IT guy for help. He in turn smiled, gave me a stack of programming “For Dummies” books, and sent me on my merry way.

Two or three weeks later, I had fumbled my way through my first adventure in coding (on dial-up no less; talk about page preview time! And with un-tabbed browsers! The horror!!!) and I eagerly showed my wonky masterpiece to everyone and anyone within a computer’s distance, dork title be damned. It was, in its full glory, a static scroll down homage to my favorite 1980s cartoons, basically an acid trip of a background covered with glittery Smurfs and My Little Ponies and He-Man Warriors and Transformers. And I was so proud. I was even prouder when the “Children of the 80s” web ring accepted my application to be a part of their database, as I had spent many hours marveling at their perfectly centered and slowly animated GIFs, built-in trivia pages, and multi-page fan sites that made mine look like your average 6 year old’s arts and crafts project. (Not that any of that stopped me from constantly attempting to add more content and links, but I digress.)

These days, if a teenager wants a webpage, all they have to do is register on a blogging site, find a template they like, and upload the content they want to include. Sure they can spend hours customizing every inch of it, but why bother? Gone are the days of frustratedly DIYing your online world; I’d even wager to bet that you’d be hard pressed to find a teenage (or even tweenage) kid who doesn’t have a personalized online presence in some capacity. Thanks to the likes of Facebook, Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, Flickr, and Friend Feed, anyone from ages 8 to 80 can figure out how to use as little or as much of the online world to their advantage. (Seriously though! I have an eighty-something year old great-aunt on Facebook. She is a Farmville junky.)

But with all the social networking applications currently available, do we really need another one to keep track of? As much as I’d like to say no, that hasn’t stopped me from hitting refresh on my Gmail since 11am this morning in hopes that Buzz will magically pop-up for me to play with. Meanwhile, the internet is buzzing (pun intended) already: will Buzz destroy Facebook? Will it invade our privacy even further? From Microsoft’s official statement to the original buzzers at Yahoo being buzz kills (ok I’ll stop now), there is no dearth of opinions on this new “social networking” tool that hardly anyone has actually gotten to try out yet. (Warning: If you haven’t at least watched the video above, you might want to because I plan on referencing some of the features from here on out!)

From what I can tell so far, Buzz’s biggest asset is that it may help Google revive (the pretty much defunct) Friend Feed, while bridging the gap to Google Wave (which many Google users have but hardly any use, myself included.) But why have a social network built into your Gmail? The most interesting thing about Google is the fact that they encourage their user to customize the G-applications to their advantage. Not that this has ever worked particularly well in the social sphere. (I’m looking at you, MySpace.) And not that I want to have to think about customizations… but if you can look past all of this, there is a far bigger picture to be had here than just the potential Gmail information overload functions.

In my opinion, the mobile app’s presentation for Buzz was far better than the web app’s. (This I can actually see getting some real use out of!) By utilizing multiple Google products your buzzes are essentially geotagged; what’s more, you are given¬† the option to get “buzzes” from all around you based on your location, letting you know what other people have recommended as far as what to do, where to go, etc. It’s huge news for businesses looking to further promote themselves, and yet another door left wide open for further programming developments that will connect our real and virtual worlds even more so.

Still, the question remains: do you really want to deal with another social networking site? Google has thought of this: If you’re a Gmail user, Buzz is already there. (Or at least, it will be in the next few days.) It’s supposedly ready to use without much tweaking. It’s supposedly as intuitive and simple as the email you already use. It’s supposedly as connected to all the other (Google-based) applications you already use on the web. So instead of expounding on the reasons why you shouldn’t (more time-wasting and inbox pile-up), I’m going to give you the reasons why I will anyway, as well as why I think Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

First, we have to stop thinking of Buzz as Google’s attempt at a “social networking site” and start thinking of it as a potentially handy application for wrangling our existing online presences. How amazing would it be to see what you look like, across the board, on every site you are registered with? What would be so bad about the simplicity of having one singular location from which you could evaluate your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Photobucket, even iLife all at once, and then click through to make adjustments or share via a master IM to people who you may not be as connected with elsewhere? Much like the 80s web ring of yesterday, many of us are continuously building a web ring styled presence online without even realizing it. Why not add another link to that ring? Or better yet, why not have a hub to wrangle the other links from? While I like to update my statuses on varying sites to different effects, I wouldn’t mind having one that kept me in the loop with all of the above. This doesn’t mean that I’m leaving Facebook for it- I love Facebook and it loves me and it’s good at what it does. And it doesn’t mean I’m leaving Twitter either- it’s an entirely different circle of friends and I like the variation between them and the people I know on Facebook. So II guess I’ll just have to wait and see with Buzz- if Google continues to do what they do best, which is aggregating content and providing more targeted search results, and if they can give this to me simply and effectively, then I’ll be buzzing along with the rest, seeing it as the completion to my “webring” of online pages. (Dear Google: Please add FB Connect! We’d be set!) But if they simply try to “be another Facebook”, I may have to reject their cracked out invasive Friend Feed until another day…