Google Spaces: How might it succeed when Google+ and Wave failed?

Angus Kidman 17 May 2016


Google's track record for collaborative tools is patchy, to put it kindly.

This morning, Google announced Spaces, software which is meant to make it easier to find and share information between groups. In Google's words: "With Spaces, it’s simple to find and share articles, videos and images without leaving the app, since Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome come built in."

In an unusual display of confidence, Spaces is being rolled out to all Gmail accounts worldwide and made available via browsers, Android and iOS apps, rather than a more measured rollout limited to particular platforms or countries. Google also plans to show it off during the Google I/O developer event this week.

That confidence belies Google's very spotty track record when it comes to "sharing tools". The Google+ social network was supposed to make it easy to share things you found interesting with other peope in your "Circles". Google's ubiquity meant that most of us ended up with a Google+ account but hardly any of us used it. We already had Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn.

Even further back, there was Wave, which was a strange programmable collaboration environment now remembered chiefly for being as buggy as all hell. Search dominance doesn't translate immediately into success in other areas.

The one area where Google has had an unqualified success with collaboration is with Google Apps; it really is very simple to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets or presentations using those tools. But that's not the exact problem Google is trying to solve with Spaces, and it's telling that, for now, Spaces isn't being rolled out to Google Apps for Business clients.

Should Spaces prove to be a runaway hit, it will still have plenty of competition, ranging from Slack to Yammer to HipChat. Having worked in all those environments, I'd say the most salient lesson for Google is to keep an eye on uptime and connectivity.

It's never safe to bet against Google, if only because it makes so much money from search advertising that it can afford to back projects long past the point when every other venture capitalist would have left the room sobbing. Spaces might be the missing piece, a genius tool everyone needs to share information. Equally, everyone might just keep using WhatsApp or Snapchat. We'll see.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on

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