Google Kills Off Experimental Social Network Shoelace


Search engine giant axes yet another social network only available in New York, to help people find group activities for people with similar interests

Google is not having much luck with its social networking ventures, with the news that it is closing down another experiment in the area.

Google’s Area 120 division had launched Shoelace in mid 2019, and it was only available in New York and only for iOS users. The idea was that Shoelace would help people with similar interests find group activities and explore NYC.

But Google has now announced that the iOS app will not move out of its experimental phase, and instead the app will be closed down on 12 May, amid the global Coronavirus pandemic.

App closure

“Like all projects within Area 120, Shoelace was an experiment,” Google revealed in a FAQ.

“We’re proud of the work that we accomplished and the community that we built, but given the current health crisis, we don’t feel that now is the right time to invest further in this project,” it added.

Google said it had no plans to reboot Shoelace in the future.

After 12 May all user account data will be deleted, but people can request an exported version of their data before that time.

Social failures?

Google is not afraid to try tech experiments, but the firm doesn’t seem to have enjoyed much success with its social networking offerings over the years.

Google announced in October 2018 for example that it was shutting down Google+ (for consumers) because of low user engagement.

It should be noted that Google had been in hot water over its decision not to reveal a data breach in Google+ that exposed the private data of up to 500,000 users, to hundreds of third-party app developers.

And then in December 2018 Google said it was accelerating the “sunsetting” (i.e forced retirement) of its Google+ social network after the discovery of a fresh bug.

Google+ had originally been scheduled to be shutdown for consumers in August 2019. But that deadline was bumped up to 2 April 2019, but in in the end Google+ was actually shut down for many in February 2019.

Facebook rival

It should be remembered that Google+ had been intended to be a rival to the mighty Facebook (despite Google’s claims to the contrary).

The arrival of Google+ saw it replace its previous incarnation, namely Google Buzz.

When Google+ was launched on June 2011, things seemed initially promising, but the truth was that the product never came close to matching the number of users that Facebook enjoyed.

Indeed, as Facebook’s growth continued unchecked over the years, it seemed that Google+ was being quietly retired by the search engine giant.

Matters were not helped when Vivek “Vic” Gundotra, the man responsible for Google+, announced his resignation in April 2014 amid rumours that Google was scaling down its social networking project.

Google had also angered many users when it integrated YouTube accounts with Google+. It later reserved that decision.

But the search engine gave Google+ a facelift in 2015 as the firm sought to continue shifting its focus away from people and more towards personal interests and communities.

Yet despite that, Google+ struggled to attract new users outside of a dedicated fanbase, making its decision to pull the plug on the consumer version an easy one to make.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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