Google announced their new Google Spaces app Monday, and frankly I’m having some difficulty wrapping my head around why we need it. Now admittedly I haven’t tried the app myself yet, but I have been reading about it, and watching some YouTube reviews, and what I get is the following; Google Spaces allows you to message others (Google Hangouts & Google+), share content (Google+); have a messaging style discussion of a specific shared piece of content (Google+); limit the audience (Circles in Google+), and use Chrome, Search and YouTube without leaving the app (more or less what you can do with Google+ now).
Yes, it looks flashier and newer than Google+, but is the functionality really much different? I can already limit my audience in Google+ using circles, and set content so that it cannot be shared outside of that circle. For each unique content share, those with whom I have shared it can comment on it in a threaded comment system that only functions differently in its appearance (looking more like comments on a web page or traditional social media than a “messaging app” style with fancy shmancy bubbles). I’m not seeing the difference yet…
Use it as a messaging app? Why? What can it do that can’t be done with Google Hangouts, or even with Google+ itself? In Google+ I can start a text post and share it with specific people only, and they can reply (and I can reply to them) in the comments to that post. I can use special hashtags then to find it again later if need be.
Finally, this idea of not having to leave the app to use Chrome, YouTube or Search has me scratching my head. At the last Google IO they announced the new integration of Chrome into apps, and open to all developers. Now when I am using Google+ if I tap on a link to a web page, it opens it in the integrated version of Chrome. When I’m finished reading it, I hit the back button, and I’m back to the original Google+ post. For YouTube videos shared via Google+, on the desktop you can watch them right in Google+, and on mobile it opens YouTube, and when you’re done watching it, hit the back button twice and you’re back to the Google+ post.
Search is the only component so far that seems to have one extra trick up its sleeve where Spaces is concerned, searching the web from within Spaces. Google+ searches within posts, collections, and communities, but not the web, however I can’t imagine it would be that hard for Google – the search company – to add web search to their Google+ search.
Speaking of Communities, by the way, wasn’t that the point of communities in Google+; a curated group with one or more gatekeepers sharing content?
The inclusion of other apps directly within an app (“you don’t have to leave the app to use these other apps!”) leads me to another gripe about so-called “platforms” like Spaces seems to be; how is this different from an OS? An OS is a wrapper for the apps/programs you use. Whether you are switching between Search, Chrome or YouTube within Android, or within Spaces, you are still using them one at a time within their respective wrapper, no? Tech companies like Google and Facebook keep amalgamating functions within ever recursive “wrappers” as if it’s something new, novel, revolutionary, and useful, but they’re solving a problem I don’t think exists, and the real goal (when you look at it from a Facebook perspective instead of a Google Spaces perspective) seems to be more about keeping you within an “ecosystem” to get more eyeball revenue. It’s the real reason Google has been working to get the Chrome OS to work within Windows or Mac OS as a sort of Trojan OS, or why Facebook is adding news and live video to keep you within its own “OS” on Windows or Mac OS.
The only feature I’ve seen on Spaces that doesn’t currently exist on Google+ is the screen splitting feature to look at content while keeping the threaded comments/messaging open beneath it. I doubt this feature will seem so exclusive for long considering we are expecting Android N to include split-window and/or multi-window functionality.
So, I’ll try Spaces, at least so I can’t be accused of complaining about something I haven’t even tested, and maybe I’ll be back to eat my digital hat, but I like Google+, damnit, and I want these damn kids to get off my lawn!