With Monday’s pre-Google I/O announcement of Google Spaces came a lot of head-scratching by users and bloggers alike. The launch, unsurprisingly, generated a great deal of publicity and excitement as users jumped at the chance to try something new from Google. It also raised more questions than it answered. Is it a new messaging platform? Is it a new social network? Does it have all the basic features it needs already? What features should be added in the future?
Google Spaces Launch Filled With Bugs, Excitement, Bewilderment
Google Spaces gradually rolled out across the platforms as it launched, starting with the Web-based service and branching out to mobile browsers and finally to mobile apps. As with any initial launch, there were a few bugs and a few poorly-executed “features”, but overall I’d say the release was a success. It generated all the media hype expected of a totally new app/service launched by Google, and naturally users rushed to try it out in their browsers and apps.
The issues that were encountered, including the gradual rollout of features (many features were inactive until some hours after launch for many) amplified the frustration for some who already didn’t know what to make of this new project. Also, when certain features did become functional, they proved to be poorly executed.
For example, when notifications on mobile devices finally became active, those who had spaces with many members found their phones and tablets flooded with every new post, every new member in a given space, every new comment within a post. It took some time before many users realized they could mute spaces (but it’s all or nothing – a space could be muted, but not individual posts).
Google Spaces (Not Really) Explained
The basic concept of Google Spaces is that you can form “Spaces” to which you can invite your friends (as long as they have a Google account, though apparently Google+ accounts aren’t necessary). In these Spaces you can post comments, links, images and YouTube videos, and you can do Google searches without leaving the app. You can also add comments, images, videos and “stickers” (completely different from the Hangouts ones) within a post. You can see the features in greater detail in the screenshot tour below.
The very basic rundown of features I just mentioned elicits comparisons to Facebook, Hangouts, Twitter microblogging (sans the character limits and the “@” handles) and even Pushbullet. There are quite a few cool features at initial launch, but there are many more that we could see added in the future, such as moderation tools for the spaces we own, the ability to indicate approval of a given post, the ability to mute individual posts without having to mute the whole Space and others.
What this feature list doesn’t do is answer the larger question: what really is Google Spaces? What is Google trying to accomplish with this new project? The answer, of course, will dictate what features will be added in future updates and what Spaces will eventually become. Perhaps Google will give a clearer answer at I/O.