Google Jumps Back Into Social Networking Fray With Shoelace

Google Shoelace
We all have that friend who is addicted to something, whether it is a love interest that does not reciprocate the affection, sports betting, chocolate, or even drugs. For Google, the addiction is making runs in the social networking space. Following the closure of Google+ (to regular users), Google is introducing another social networking product, called Shoelace.

To be clear, Shoelace is not a rebirth of Google+ (which still exists for businesses and schools through G Suite, by the way). It is also not another take on Google Buzz or a messaging service like Google Wave, to name just a couple of the social experiments Google ultimately ended up shuttering. So, what exactly is Shoelace, then?

"Shoelace is a mobile app that helps connect people with shared interests through in person activities. It’s great for folks who have recently moved cities or who are looking to meet others who live nearby," Google explains.

The description brings to memory Yik Yak, a social media smartphone app that launched in 2013 and shut down in 2017. Yik Yak allowed people to create and participate in discussion threads with local users (within a 5-mile radius). I fired it up a few times to get a feel for the landscape when I moved to a new state a few years ago (shout out to the helpful folk who let me know where I could get crawfish in Tennessee).

Shoelace looks like a souped-up version of Yik Tak, to an extent. The focus is on connecting people in a given area who share similar interests. Google also intends for Shoelace to help users find things to do.

"Each day, we find the best things happening around you—from pick-up soccer to free comedy shows—so you don’t have to. Feeling inspired? Create your own events and invite anyone to come along," Google adds.

Shoelace was born out of Area 120, Google's workshop for experimental products. It's called Shoelace because the premise is on tying people together based on their interests, like two laces on a shoe. Fittingly, activities in the app are called Loops.

It will be interesting to see if Shoelace can succeed after a string of misses in the social networking space. At the very least, it looks like an interesting service. For now, however, Google is limiting Shoelace to New York City, and it is invite-only for Android and iOS users. The plan is to roll it out to cities nationwide, assuming things go well.