What is the one thing that Google hasn’t managed to crack yet? Search is locked down. Browsers and phones are sorted. They have the world’s biggest video site and email provider in YouTube and Gmail. Yet something is missing, and that missing element is a social network. Introducing; Shoelace.
Shoelace is a hyper-localised social networking app platform that ‘ties’ together users who have common interests and is a little bit like Facebook Local. Shoelace uses the social networking sphere and popularity to encourage people to meet outside of the internet space and do activities together in person.
Google has had several attempts at cracking the social networking world, but as yet have not managed to create a sustainable platform. You may recall the shutdown of platforms like Orkut, Google Buzz, Circles and Google+, and the closure of messaging services like Allo and Google Wave. No one can say they aren’t persistent.
This new app-based platform from Google will allows users to connect with others based on their proximity. The idea being to bring together people with similar interests that are also in a close geo-location to one another. You can join, create or suggest “Loops,” events or activities, and are invited to organise and participate in Loops nearby. A ‘Loop’ is what Google is calling an event. At the time of writing this app is currently in beta and only available in New York via invite.
However so far Shoelace is getting rather mixed reviews. Critics are wondering how long it will be around, claiming that when the curiosity dies down, Google will just close Shoelace, like all the other failed social networks of the past. Others say, that it brings something new to social media and bridges the gap between digital and the real world. Google claims that Shoelace will “Supercharge your social life - with handpicked things to do with others who share your interests”. Users will be able to create profiles, share some information about themselves and learn more about others within their city. For me, maybe it will make finding a tennis partner in London less of a mission and enable fun discoveries in other cities when I am travelling. If so, I’d be happy to give it a try.
Looking forward, what will Shoelace mean for businesses? The platform has the potential to assist retail and the diminishing high street by extending the online shopping experience into something more personal and interactive. It could provide an opportunity for brands to launch events and bring in local foot traffic, for example; book signings, product launches, VIP parties or educational / experiential events.
Whilst that sounds positive, Google’s Shoelace will be competing against companies such as MeetUp, Facebook Local and EventBrite. It will be essential for them to provide something unique in this peer set; like an additional reason to join. That reason to date, is not overly clear. However, I think it is fair to say that with focussed time, energy and investment this platform could be a huge success.