Google today launched its latest app called Neighbourly in India, which acts a social point for people to ask and find local information from people in their neighbourhood. The new app lets users ask questions like if there is a garage nearby, good haircut places and the mom and pop store (kirana) where you get a particular herb in the locality.
The app, which is in the beta phase, is active only for Android users in Mumbai who are running Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) and higher on their phones. The company plans to roll this out to other Indian cities in the future although no timeline has been given for this or for when the final version would happen. People outside Mumbai can, however, join a waitlist and invite their neighbours.
“Google Search got started by connecting people to information on the web.. in our research, we’ve found that most of life happens within a 1km radius of where you live, so we wanted to create a new experience for neighbours to benefit from the collective knowledge inside their neighbourhoods,” said Josh Woodward, Group Product Manager on Google’s Next Billion Users team.
The app uses your device location to fix on to your neighbourhood and can be easily set up in three steps and does not share your full name, number and other contact information.
Some features of the app bear resemblance to Google guide at first glance wherein users are asked for reviews on places they have visited. This makes it hyperlocal and gives the user a dedicated ecosystem for getting information.
The app is the product of Google’s ‘Next Billion Users’ team which is an initiative that goes by the same name intended at focussing on local content aimed at emerging economies like India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Nigeria which the company believes is where a majority of new internet users are going to come from.
The app allows users to post questions in local languages by allowing them to type in scripts like Devanagari and asks users to agree to three promises in the hopes of making sure they behave like good children.
Following a spate of initiatives around voice at Google’s developer conference called I/O earlier this month, Neighbourly builds on that by allowing users to speak to the app when they want to answer or ask a questions and the application can recognise English and eight other Indian languages which are Marathi, Hindi, English, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil, and Bengali.
Data and User Safety
Data safety is a quintessential aspect which people are turning to when they assess the pros and cons of apps and Neighbourly tries to address that by limiting itself to tracking user’s location, accessing the Microphone – for speaking questions into the app and requesting permission to SMS for notifying users when the waitlist is open for their neighbourhoods.
Apart from making you agree to promises, the app tries to address user safety by displaying points and badges on your profile page based on your activity. It also ranks content and allows users to report issues and the company has built custom detectors for, “Is this a question?” “Is this timely?” etc.
Google has been taking some very interesting initiatives in India and some of them have seen great rewards for the company , just take for example its partnership with Reliance Jio where its voice assistant was made available for low priced and basic Reliance JioPhones and since then voice assistant service has seen a more than six-fold growth in its usage.
It’ll be interesting to see if the success of this app could see it being rolled out in other countries as well and what it could mean for the search giant when it comes to its global ambitions of “Make Google Do It”.