Google is gearing up to take another crack at social networking with the newly spotted pre-release launch of a new app from its experimental Area 120 unit called Shoelace.
Built around a similar premise to earlier experiences built out by the search giant, this new social network won't be anything at all like the now-defunct Google Plus. Instead, it will follower along the lines of another Google service called Schemer that was shut down back in 2014 and focus on bringing together users locally rather than at the global scale.
Interest-based connections, kept local, with shared activity planning
The purpose of Shoelace is very similar to the earlier applications too, starting with how Area 120 says it plans to help keep users secure. Users will access Shoelace to interact and to plan meet-ups in the real world with connections centering around activities they happen to be interested in.
The goal is to connect people with like interests who may never have met otherwise, whether that's because the user is new to an area or just looking to meet some new people locally.
That should prove useful for those times when there are activities somebody wants to take part in but obstacles keep getting in the way -- such as if their friends happen to be too busy or just disinterested in the activity.
To keep users from meeting up with people they might not want to interact with, users discuss activities, referred to by the service as "Loops," well in advance via communities. Those are effectively crowd-managed so they're moderated and created by users themselves a la Google Plus and those who join in on communities are verified before joining.
Profiles, Loops, and communities are also checked against a series of standards and rules, with a full suite of reporting tools in place in case something that breaches those isn't caught beforehand.
This is still "unreleased"
Navigating to the Google Play Store page for Shoelace reveals that the app is still listed as "Unreleased" while downloading and running the app loads up a screen indicating that it is an invite-only affair. That's just as well since it's only available in New York for the time being, for the purpose of testing, with more areas expected to be added over time based on interest in the app.
This is still an extremely experimental application that's bound to have some bugs and quirks that need to be ironed out before it's ready for public use if it makes it to that point at all. The company says that the trial run will help determine "what works and what doesn't" and there's a form on the official Shoelace site to request the service for new areas. So there's a chance that it isn't going to ever see a wider, consumer-ready stable release. Conversely, it may end up only working in the U.S. while other apps fill in elsewhere.
In its current iteration, Shoelace can be downloaded and used in the available trial region and later regions on both Android and iOS devices as long as they're running Android 8.0 Oreo and newer or iOS 11, respectively.