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14th Time Lucky? Google has another go at social with Spaces

Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Skype, WeChat, Slack, Viber, Yik Yak, Kik, Tibbr, Yammer, Jive... There’s no shortage of social networks in the world. And no shortage of failed ones either.

For a company looking to beam internet down from balloons, redefine the automotive industry, extend lives, make futuristic homes & cities reality, and who knows what else, Google’s attempts at social networks have been resounding failures throughout the years: Google Buzz, Google Hangouts, Google+, Google Talk, GChat, Google Friend, Google Wave, Dodgeball, Latitude, Orkut, Jaiku, Aardvark, Disco…

But the company remains undeterred. Enter Spaces, a group chat app with aspects of search, YouTube and Chrome built in.

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“Group sharing isn’t easy,” Luke Wroblewski, Product Director said in a blog post. “Sharing things typically involves hopping between apps to copy and paste links. Group conversations often don’t stay on topic, and things get lost in endless threads that you can’t easily get back to when you need them.”

“We wanted to build a better group sharing experience, so we made a new app called Spaces that lets people get people together instantly to share around any topic. With Spaces, it’s simple to find and share articles, videos and images without leaving the app, since Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome come built in.”

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This week’s I/O conference is being touted as its first major testing ground, but it’s not hard to imagine Spaces being heartily neglected by the time of next year’s conference. The search giant’s 14th (by my count) attempt lies somewhere between a Pinterest and a WhatsApp/Messenger group chat, maybe with a bit of Slack thrown in.

Will people take to it? Hard to say. The Washington Post called it confusing, The Next Web called it interesting but admitted it wasn’t “really sure what Google wants it to be”. It doesn’t seem to offer a lot that can’t be found elsewhere with an already large and settled user base. If nothing else, at least it’s not another social network with “Google” wedged in at the front.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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