The latest "social" experiment by Google is another item for the company to throw on the failure pile.
Google is giving social networking another try with Spaces. I immediately checked it out because I was hoping for a centralized site where the No Agenda podcastaudience could perhaps coordinate meetups. They currently use Meetup.com, which I find to be a very annoying system.
Maybe this will work? (Quick answer for those in a hurry. No, it won't.)
First, here is the promise on the Google website announcing the product:
"Group sharing isn't easy. From book clubs to house hunts to weekend trips and more, getting friends into the same app can be challenging. 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."
The last sentence is a hint that this is a walled garden.
But let's look at what it does. Not much. You can set up and exchange posts with members of the group and your privacy is pretty much toast if the link gets into the wild.
I can find no way to manage a group if it got out of control. Worse, this is restricted to only those with a Google account of some sort. Google says "Spaces is rolling out today on Android, iOS, desktop, and mobile web for all Gmail accounts. Give it a try and create your first space today." This limits its functionality and probably makes it unusable in offices where employees are restricted in what email system they can use.
Commenters on the Google blog point out that Spaces's characteristics go up against Google Keep and Google+ Communities. It also resembles MSN Spaces—which morphed into Windows Live Spaces before it was discontinued in 2011. Apparently nobody was interested. Why Google used the same name as a failed product is odd in itself. I'm guessing it never bothered to do any research.
That said, I can imagine the site might work for groups where everyone is all-in on Gmail.
Say you are planning an elaborate family vacation and all the notes from everyone need to be consolidated into a quasi-blog with a combined discussion and links of "things to do" suggestions. This could be accomplished using email, but the results are clumsy. The same can be said for mini-projects. The only cool thing I liked with the Spaces service is that you can just as easily set up five sites or more as you can one site. Each Space is walled off from the others. Thus you personally have a single portal, but all your sites are on a single page. They're not all open at once, although I think it is possible to manage that.
Now if you have a bunch of little group projects with different people needing to share a lot of stuff, this might work. For me, what this software really does is show me the real need for group-sharing software that would be powerful and something you would want to use. This is not that.
John Dvorak is a columnist for PCMag.com and the host of the weekly TV video podcast CrankyGeeks. His work is licensed around the world. Previously a columnist for Forbes, Forbes Digital, PC World, Barrons, MacUser, PC/Computing, Smart Business and other magazines and newspapers. Former editor and consulting editor for Infoworld. Has appeared in the New York Times, LA Times, Philadelphia Enquirer, SF Examiner, Vancouver Sun. Was on the start-up team for CNet TV as well as ZDTV. At ZDTV (and TechTV) was host of Silicon...MORE »