The app’s conceit — chat rooms for common interests — is a simple one, admittedly, but Spaces is a bit more robust than your average messaging app. Starting conversations is made easier by built-in tools that let you search Google results, peruse YouTube, and even browse the web. When you’ve found something cool, inviting your friends to a viewing party’s as easy as shooting a link via your preferred messaging app, email client, or social network. New shares from conversation participants to the group appear in a “conversation view” — threaded messages attached to shared items, basically — and are archived for posterity.
Google says Spaces will roll out on Android, iOS, and the web later today, and is encouraging developers who will be attending its I/O conference next week to install it ahead of time. “We’ll … be experimenting with Spaces this week at Google I/O,” the company said in a press release. “We’ve created a space for each session so that developers can connect with each other and Googlers around topics at I/O …”
Spaces might be perceived as the search giant’s crack at a lucrative, growing market: ecosystem-rich chat apps. Mainstays like Skype, Line, and WhatsApp boast hundreds of millions of active users, and Slack, arguably the most successful newbie of the bunch, was recently valued at $3.8 billion.
Spaces appears also to be a preparatory step by Google toward reinvigorating its social media efforts — efforts that have so far been marred by failure. Google+, the Mountain View company’s social network, has failed to make headway against incumbents like Facebook. And Buzz, a disastrous attempt at replicating Twitter’s form of shorthand sharing, deterred the company from ever again pursuing the market.
The promise of Spaces — a streamlined bookmarking and messaging app in one — is one with broad appeal, no doubt. But whether Google can attract away folks away from the many, many more established platforms with which the app’s competing remains to be seen.