If there were a graveyard for social networks, the largest tombstone might be reserved for Google+ – the ill-fated experiment that Google launched in 2011, and shuttered in 2019. Intended to poach the success of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, Google+ could never really conquer the social graphs both apps constructed and struggled to find a resonant home with users. Despite some attractive privacy features and die-hard communities that centered around interests, the platform never took off. However, an experimental new project – called Keen – might offer a glimpse of hope for the future.
Launched under the auspices of Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120, Keen is a Pinterest-like social network that is designed to marry Google’s machine learning strengths, user data hoarde, and insights from its existing Google Alerts system to craft together a smorgasbord of content that evolves as its users interests take shape.
Keen, which is now available on Android and the web, users can find a pinboard of content pertaining to information that they’ve recently explored through a Google Search that can contain YouTube videos, articles, links to purchases through online stores such as Amazon, and more. Cursory searches in Google Search can provide contextual suggestions in Keen as a user delves deeper into a particular topic.
Users can then ‘pin’ items together to create their own ‘Keen’, which they can accordingly share with other users. The entire experience is reminiscent of the same journey Pinterest offers – save for the fact that topic recommendations are contextually generated from your own web activity.
It remains to be seen whether Keen can graduate from an experiment into a fully-fledged social network – and given the disaster that was Google +, it’s unlikely that the Mountain View giant might throw as much weight behind the app. However, it remains an intriguing evolution to Google Alerts, and a feature that might well integrate into Google’s other online services.
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