For a technology company as ubiquitous as Google, its track record at social networking has been nothing short of embarrassing. Google+, Google Buzz, Orkut, Lively, Dodgeball… No matter how hard the Internet giant tried, it only stumbled and failed in its attempts to dethrone Facebook and Twitter.
But now, Google is preparing to pull a rather promising rabbit out of its hat by developing Google Earth as a social networking platform. The plan is to let people put stories, photos, and videos directly onto Google Earth and tie their experiences to the source location. Google Earth Director Rebecca Moore, who first floated this idea at a recent event in Brazil, confirmed the development to this writer.
Moore was in Brazil to launch the stories of the Amazon rainforest on Google Earth’s interactive storytelling platform called Voyager, which rolled out with the new version of Chrome-based Google Earth in April this year. Once Voyager becomes open to public – Moore anticipates a two to three years timeline for this – anybody would be able to upload unedited content directly to it.
One distinguishing feature of Google Earth would be that it won’t bog users down with advertisements. Moore has been candid in her admission that Google doesn’t plan to monetize the project. “Google Earth is our gift to the world,” she says. “Google [already] has nice revenue from advertising, and not everything Google does has to make money.”
The platform would allow users to choose whether they want to keep their content visible to the public at large, effectively making it a part of the destination’s cumulative history, or share it only with a select few. And since Google wants to get as many people onboard as it possibly can, there seems to be no restriction on the type of content as well. “The story of your family history, the story of your favorite hiking trip – it could be anything. It doesn’t have to be profound,” Moore says.
However, this also immediately raises the question of privacy violation. How does Google plan to maintain the sanctity of the platform by dealing with potentially abusive or violent content? Because that’s a battle even Facebook is finding hard to win… That said, the idea of having thousands of people across the world share their memories, insights, tourist trivia and more in a communistic manner sounds very exciting. And who knows, in it, Google may finally find a social networking product that’s a crowd-pleaser. We hope to update you with more details soon!