Google has never made a successful social network, but you have to give the company some credit for never giving up. After the shutdown of platforms like Orkut, Google Buzz, and Google+ (and the shuttering of messaging services like Allo and Google Wave) it appears that Google is testing out yet another social network, this one called Shoelace.
Developed by Google’s experimental Area 120 product development workshop, Shoelace is a hyper-local social networking app (available on Android and iOS) that aims to connect people based on shared interests in specific events and in-person activities. In short, Shoelace looks like a social network that encourages people to spend less time on their phones, and more time doing something, anything in real life.
With Shoelace, users are able to create “Loops”—like the loops on a shoelace, get it?—which are essentially listings for events that can be shared with others on the app, with the side goal of possibly helping people make a new friend or two.
Conversely, if you don’t have any of your own events to suggest, users can designate their interest in a variety of categories, which Shoelace will use to recommend a number of “hand-picked” activities the app thinks you might like, so you won’t have any excuse for saying there’s nothing fun to do ever again.
Users will also be able to create profiles so that they can share some tidbits about themselves, learn about others in their “crews,” and make it easier to organize and plan for upcoming events. According to Shoelace’s listing on the Google Play Store, the most recent update to the app added the ability to share Loops using a hyperlink, something that could make it even easier to spread the word about upcoming activities.
Unfortunately, Shoelace is currently only available in one place, New York City, though Google says its goal is to bring Shoelace to cities across the U.S. in the future. Google is even taking requests for suggestions on places it should bring Shoelace to next. And even if you do live in or near NYC, access to Shoelace is invite-only for now.
As fun as it is poke Google for past failures in the social network space, amid growing concerns that time spent on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is having a negative impact on our lives, it’s kind of refreshing to see a social network whose main purpose is to encourage people to spend less time on said network and more time actually doing things.
And even if Shoelace doesn’t make it in the long run, I wouldn’t be surprised to see many of its features and ideas incorporated into Google Maps or another Google service in the future.