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The online service designed for people to connect with experts online, Google Hangouts, is going away as of April 20, 2015. Thought to be a benefit to both users and the people with the expertise, it just did not get enough traffic to warrant keeping it.
Google launched Hangouts in November 2013 and expected it to fill the gaps of search engines. Udi Manber, formerly a vice president at Google, said a person comes to realize the useful information is in someone’s head after searching the internet for a long time. He added that having someone right there to demonstrate is the best way.
There were hopes of taking it into the medical community where people could consult with their doctor, nurse, or even the veterinarian. Offering the search for medical information at no charge was one way that Google promoted Helpouts. Their Knowledge Graph all but eliminated any need for asking an expert. By tapping into a variety of sources it responds to questions without having to visit a lot of websites.
Using their identity tools, payment technology methods, and online video Google set the stage so they could offer visitors both free and paid advice. Until April, it will continue to offer online time with experts covering topics such as cooking, fashion and beauty, parenting, photography, and more. This was to be a place that users could connect with experts in various fields by having a one-on-one session online and, in some cases, the expert gets paid for their time and expertise.
However, so much of what they offered can already be found on the internet. When the Google Helpouts service goes away in April, users can download their history with all the data they have collected and save it on Google Takeout until November 1, 2015.
Their other website, YouTube, already offers expertise in varying degrees on a plethora of topics, all for free. Not only can a user find free information, the video creator can monetize their efforts by availing themselves to the advertising program. While YouTube video may not be the same as having someone right there to ask questions, they can be very helpful.
Because the tax laws are changing in Europe, Google had to eliminate the paid portion of Helpouts. Now they offer only the free aspect in Europe, and recommends to providers in Ireland and the U.K to offer only the free aspect of the service. Attracting providers and providing the service has no doubt been affected overall by the changes in Europe.
Hangout mobile apps are no longer available on Google Play or iTunes, so there will not be any new mobile users. Perhaps it will just fade away as the shutdown date approaches.
In retrospect it seems clear that Helpouts had little chance of success from the start. Google was their own competition and now Hangouts is going away. Most people, with a little patience, can find out how to do almost anything by searching YouTube. It may take a little time, but it is free.
By Ailey Hines
Photo by: Andrew Perry – Flickr License