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Google’s new Spaces app is… something

We're not sure

By Jennifer Harrison May 17, 2016

Google give us some amazing services and apps (imagine no Gmail or Google Earth) but are known to occasionally miss the mark. Google+ was a perfectly reasonable social network but it didn’t do anything different or better enough to pull people away from Facebook. Then there was Google Wave, which was actually pretty clever but nobody seemed to understand what it was or who it was for. Yesterday Google added a new app to the list of confusing products that might or might not deserve a home online.

Spaces is… well that’s the problem, it’s hard to define exactly what it is. More importantly, it’s hard to grasp what hole in the market Google feels they are covering with the app. Spaces is available as a web app in your browser or as iOS and Android apps, which are all free. According to Google, “Spaces is a small group sharing app for everything in life.”

Let’s forget about comparisons for a moment. What does the site actually do? It lets you create “spaces”, which are meant to be specific topics. The space could be for some project you’re working on, a holiday you’re planning, a comic you’re designing, or a sarcastic piece about apps with no obvious purpose. In a space you can type text posts and comment on things but it’s mostly for sharing images, GIFs, YouTube videos, and links to websites. If you’re planning a holiday with friends, you could post a link to a potential hotel and everyone could have their say.

That’s pretty much it. Create spaces and share stuff in them. So is this something the internet actually needs? It isn’t clear what Google are trying to do here. At first I thought it was some alternative to Slack, but it’s really not a chatting app. You could never compare Spaces to anything like Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp. Firstly, the text side of things is secondary to the actual sharing of content. Secondly, who would you actually be talking to when everyone else uses the other apps?

So it’s kind of like Slack in the sense that it brings a bunch of people together if they’re working on the same thing (like a business or project) and lets them share stuff. But in another respect it’s like Google’s answer to Pinterest, although we’re not sure there was actually a question there to be answered.

If Spaces is the place you go to share stuff with friends, isn’t that just Facebook or dare I say Google+? Unlike Twitter, those websites have support for groups (or circles) so you can organise projects and events with people you want to invite. The main difference is that almost all your friends are probably on Facebook and already use groups to do things like this. Can you convince them to plan events on Spaces instead because… well, we’re not sure what the argument would be. If you just don’t like Facebook there are still better alternatives even from Google.

This all might sound a bit harsh for a brand new app but its development seems like considerable effort for a service that doesn’t appear to solve any problems. If someone was to ask why they should start using the app, we can’t really make a good argument. Maybe you like Pinterest but want it to be more collaborative? Or maybe you simply don’t like Slack, or the social networking sites, or the messaging apps, or anything that that may or may not be a competitor to Spaces. We just can’t tell.

We’re not even going to bring up the unforgivably wasteful design or the bugs in the mobile apps. Oops, we just did.

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