Google Helpouts

Google Helpouts – Just Another Buzz Wave or the Future of Expert Advice?

For a couple of weeks there have been rumors about a new Google service based on the Hangouts infrastructure. Called Google Helpouts the service offers live video interaction with experts who can charge the caller through Google Wallet. Google is apparently taking a 20% cut.

This reminds me of a similar service Skype offered back in the days when it still belonged to ebay. Through a so called Skype expert directory educators, trainers and consultants could charge for Skype calls by the minute and then got paid via PayPal which, conveniently, also was (and still is) owned by ebay.

Needless to say that this project went nowhere, especially after ebay sold 70% of Skype to an investment group in November 2009 and the rest to Microsoft in May 2011. But what is Google up to?

I have to admit, for the moment I am not sure where a Google Helpouts service fits in the overall strategy of Google. It could be a bet on education in its various forms moving online but that does not sound like a huge business opportunity to me, more like a distraction.

Apparently, the service is going to be integrated into Google+ business pages, enhancing the offering to small business owners by adding a potential revenue source. This, of course, implies that people use Google+ to look for services and are open to directly call and pay an expert.

I am also sure that it will work with Google Now. For example, when you ask your phone a question and get a certified expert on the matter on top of the search results. Just press call and get advice on your divorce or car that has broken down.

The more I think (write) about this, the more it will make sense five years from now. Looking at Google’s strategy with Search, Android and other location based services we already know that they are in the game for the long run.

For now you can sign up for a notification when the service officially launches. If you are interested in becoming one of the Google Helpouts experts you need to provide certificates and other means that show that you are a professional in your subject area.

All in all its another part of what I predicted as 24/7 teacher cloud back in 2011.