Google Spaces' Fatal Flaw: It Requires Too Much Mental Energy

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2016-05-17 Print this article Print
Google Spaces

Google Photos is comparable to Spaces, according to Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice president of streams, photos and sharing, who answered questions in a Space I created to talk about Google Spaces.

Google Photos replaces social networking products with a feature. Instead of sharing personal photos on a social product like Facebook, you share them using the sharing feature of Google Photos.

Google Spaces replaces social media with a feature. Instead of sharing articles, other people's photos or links to any Web content on a social product like Facebook, you share them in an ad-hoc "Space" that is not part of a social product.

To illustrate my point, let's contrast one Facebook way and one Google Spaces way to share an article on your phone.

One way to share on Facebook is that you start with Google Search, find the article, copy the link, open the Facebook app, create a new post and paste in the link, then talk about it on Facebook.

One way to share with Google Spaces is to start with Spaces, using the mobile app to do the Google Search. When you find it, you press the big button, designate which Space it goes in (or create a new one). Then you share by tapping on a button to any site or via any medium, including email. The recipients click on the link, coming back to the Space you created. In this scenario, Spaces is really a feature of Google Search, with the Spaces app actually being an alternative Google Search app with social sharing as a feature.

Similarly, Google's Spaces Chrome extension adds a social feature to your browser. You simply click on the Spaces button to share the current tab.

Spaces looks like a product, but it's really a version of Google Search and Chrome with social added as a feature.

I expect Spaces to be integrated with all kinds of Google sites and apps to add social as a feature so people don't have to use a social product like Facebook.

Here Comes the Judo

Spaces allows Google to escape the surly bonds of the network effect.

On social products, a company is expected to provide access to other users. The more users are on a network, the more new users want to be on that network. That's the network effect.

Google tried to compete against Facebook by creating a superior social networking product: Google+, but Google was defeated by the network effect because it was late to the game.

With Spaces, there is no network effect, er, in effect. Google provides no users. Nobody is "on" Spaces. Nobody can call Spaces a "ghost town" because there's no town.

You don't need a Google+ account to use Spaces. You don't even need a Google password to read content on Spaces you've been invited to. (You do need a regular Google password to comment, though.)

Spaces are potentially ephemeral, too. For example, you can delete any Space you create and all comments die with it. You can pull the ladder up at any time by rescinding the share link. When you do that, the existing participants can continue participating, but nobody new can join the conversation. Later, you can create a new link and invite new people again. You can also, of course, keep conversations private by sharing privately.

As a bonus, Spaces unifies your conversations. The "Activity" stream shows any activity on all your Spaces. On the mobile app, the "Activity" stream updates automagically, which is one of my favorite features.


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