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Google’s Latest Social Experiment Wants to “Loop” You In With Local Events

Culture

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After its experiment with creating online connections, Google’s next social network may focus on offline outings.

Google’s next foray into social networking won’t be undertaken with a goal of taking on giants like Facebook or Twitter. Their latest experiment, called Shoelace, is designed to connect people offline- and testing is taking place in New York City right now.

Developed in Google’s Area 120, their in-house incubator, Shoelace connects individuals local to an area based on common interest. As Engadget describes it, “you pick your interests, and the creators help you hook up with like-minded people for various activities” (called loops) “whether they’re custom-created or hand-picked.” The mechanism sounds similar to tools like Meetup or Eventbrite, allowing users to create events and then invite friends or publicize them to general users. But unlike Meetup or Eventbrite, or even Facebook Events, these “loops” can be shared with friends, colleagues or acquaintances whether they use Shoelace or not.

The smaller scope of the project seems smart, and is also being reflected in its rollout; at present, Shoelace is only being tested in NYC. iOS or Android users in the area interested in applying to test the product can do so here; depending on its early performance, testing may expand to other cities or even nationwide.

Despite being the product of an incubator, some have recognized that Shoelace bears a striking resemblance to a departed Google product, Schemer, which had a short-lived run helping users to organize offline events from 2011-2014. Time will tell if this app will outlive its predecessor, or evolve into a new form in the months to come.

Google’s last product that was tested in this fashion, Pigeon, never moved beyond the NYC-centric testing; however, its purpose (to help navigate the subway) lives on through key updates to Google Maps. Absorption into an existing Google Product (perhaps Hangouts or Drive) is also a viable future for the project. But in the meantime, we’ll await the opportunity to “loop” our friends in on upcoming plans through the new app.

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