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Google Spaces review: Falls short of Facebook, Slack and WhatsApp

Google Spaces

Google has introduced a new service which is looking to simplify group chatting called Spaces. The Spaces service is being rolled out as a separate app on desktop, Android and iOS. There is also a mobile web version and a Chrome extension.

Spaces will be automatically linked to a user’s Gmail account (Sigh! Google, do you not remember how that did not work with Google+?). Users can invite people to conversations via a link, email and Facebook. Spaces also integrates Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome into the service.

Google says that it built Spaces to make sure that users stay on a topic in group conversations which often meander to endless threads and it is often difficult to get back to the point.

How it works:

– Users can create a Space and invite friends for the same to discuss a topic.

– Links, YouTube videos and pictures can be shared as a single post in the Space.

– Users can then comment and type messages on the post like you would on a normal group chat.

– If someone wants to start another thread of conversation, they can make a separate post and share it on the Space.

First impressions

This seems to be Google’s second attempt at building a social network. It is admirable that Google is trying to solve the problem of conversations going off in different directions, however it isn’t as user friendly and intuitive as WhatsApp. You even get  hints that it is trying to take on Facebook with each post getting comments and people discussing them. However, there are no feedback buttons for a post like reactions or likes.

Overall, the purpose of Spaces seems very confused. Is it for business or private conversations? WhatsApp is used for private conversations, while Slack is for business and work. However, the service does not allow file sharing of any kind on the service. So Slack has a distinctive advantage over there. Many users on Google Play store expressed similar sentiments. The Washington Post summed it well that Google is “still looking for The One Social Platform to Rule Them All.”

However, the Google Search, YouTube and photos integration is quite fantastic as users will not have to leave the app while searching for something which saves a lot of time. The desktop version still seems clunky where users still have to copy paste a link, but it really shines on the mobile app.

Here’s how it stacks up against the other services:

Against WhatsApp: It does not allow sharing of audio files, voice notes, videos and documents. Though it does organize topics very well so that people won’t get lost in the discussion.

Against Slack: Slack allows users to be tagged so that they can get individual notifications if they are being addressed in a group chat. In addition, it also allows almost every type of file sharing. It can also set up RSS feeds into a channel, something that Spaces might want to consider. Alarms and notifications are a great addition too as an enterprise channel.

Against Facebook:  As mentioned before, posts on Spaces do not have reaction buttons. In addition, Facebook allows users to reply to individual comments, which organizes discussions quite well. Why try to fix something that’s already been fixed?

What can be added

– If Google is trying to build out a social network, it could also have Twitter integration. Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, already has a deal with Twitter to post relevant Tweets about a topic. Perhaps it could work on that.

– Reaction buttons could be added if the Space accommodates a large number of users. This could in turn lead to a Reddit-like community.

– File and document sharing.

YouTube messaging 

It’s worth noting that last week, YouTube added messaging feature to its native app. The feature is launched for a select group of users who can then invite friends into conversation threads. The message threads will stay on YouTube’s mobile app on a new tab. Users can send and receive YouTube videos to friends within the app as opposed to copying and pasting links into emails, texts, apps, or other messengers.

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