Google recently launched HelpOuts, amalgamating Google+ Hangouts and Google Wallet into a two-sided marketplace to provide ‘real help from real people in real time’.
What Is It?
HelpOuts gives consumers access to a range of experts available on-demand for small amounts of time. Imagine the ability to pay for a quick conversation with any expert on any subject at the point that you actually need them. Need to know if you’re burning the cheese sauce? Ask a chef. How do you get that stain out of the carpet? A Cleaning lady can tell you. You might want to know whether the cut on your leg is getting infected or what the blockage in the drain could be removed with. Google HelpOuts gives immediate access to people who can answer questions – for a fee.
How Does It Work
If you’ve used Google Hangouts and any other two-sided marketplace before you’ll understand the basic technology behind Google HelpOuts. search for the profile of someone who can help you, dial into a Google Hangout environment and speak to them over video technology. The edge Google is banking on is the ability for experts to see you and your problem directly and address it in real time. This is a significant departure from the traditional help websites where a forum answer may take days to come and even then is not necessarily from a reliable source.
The second part of the Google HangOuts equation is the Wallet. Entering your credit card details for a 2 minute and $5 chat with an expert is time consuming and frustrating enough to be a big enough barrier for consumers to never do it. Enter Google Wallet. With automatic and secure billing of even small amounts over the internet, consumers signed in to use the service won’t even have to think about where the payment is coming from. Service providers will receive the amounts in their own Google Wallet after the session is finalised.
For the launch, 1,000 service providers have been approved by Google, ranging in skills from editing and writing to yoga and website analytics analysis. Google is still requiring that all service providers are approved by Google before being allowed to offer their services; as the service grows this will need to change. Do service providers need to sit at their computer waiting until someone needs them for 5 minutes? Not necessarily; the system will notify a provider by SMS as well as a guarantee that if you don’t hear from the provider in 5 minutes of sending your request, the session is free.
Can Google Pull It Off?
What they haven’t mentioned in the media fanfare surrounding the launch is that this is Google’s fourth attempt at an online marketplace providing answers to any question.
Effort One: Google Answers: paid researchers available to answer any question via a message board.
Effort Two: Acquired Aadvark, shutting it down not long after.
Effort Three: GoogleKnol, a competitor for Wikipedia and eHow, also now retired.
Effort Four: a Russian question and answer forum site that is still running although in a limited marketspace.
Immediate competitors for Google HelpOuts consist of those networks already available to give advice – for free. YouTube videos, Answer forums, even friends. Although there is not a particular market leader that can guarantee quality answers for small amounts of money in real time and Google is banking on this difference being enough to build monetary success.