Google is testing a new mobile app that it hopes will make it easier for people to stay plugged in to what is going on in their communities. The app is called Bulletin, and it lets users spread the news of what is happening around them. You can sort of think of it as a cross between Snapchat and Twitter, but without the overt narcissism or character limit. Bulletin is also something completely different.
"Bulletin is a free, lightweight app for telling a story by capturing photos, video clips and text right from your phone, published straight to the web (without having to create a blog or build a website). If you are comfortable taking photos or sending messages, you can create a Bulletin story!," Google explains.
The main focus is on what Google calls "hyperlocal stories about your community." If things play out the way Google intends, Bulletin will be used to tell local stories that might otherwise have flown under the radar. There is always the chance that something particularly interesting could go viral on a national or global scale, but for all intents and purposes, Bulletin is about keeping a community connected with one another.
On the surface, Bulletin seems like a clever way of leveraging the ubiquitous smartphone landscape. Whether or not it will hold mass appeal remains to be seen, but one interesting twist is that even though Google is calling Bulletin an app, there is nothing to download from the Play Store or App Store. Bulletin exists in a browser, supposedly offering all the convenience of an app, without the friction. Or put another way, it's a "progressive web app."
Bulletin can also be though of as a blogging platform, without the usual barriers that might keep less savvy users out. You parents and grandparents could use Bulletin, so you are not just getting local news bits from an millennial perspective. That seems to be one of the goals, anyway.
The other half of the equation is consumption. Those consuming these news stories don't necessarily have to use Bulletin, or even know it exists. What's not clear is what kind of effort Google will put into curating these stories or what protections are in place to prevent abuse.
Google is piloting Bulletin in Nashville, Tennessee and Oakland, California. If you live in either of those areas and want to request access, you can do so by going here.