So about a month ago, my toddler ripped a bunch of keys off my laptop. I struggled mightily to get the keys back on and watched YouTube video upon YouTube video trying to figure it out, but I just couldn’t figure it out. I took the laptop in and got it fixed by professionals who found the whole situation so pathetic that they didn’t even charge me. Two days later, my kid did it again. I took the laptop in again and again, they fixed it. Then two days after that, it happened again…
That week was a dark period in my life. I eventually figured out how to get the damn keys back on the keyboard myself, but it took hours of painstaking research. You know what would’ve been nice? If YouTube had some kind of on-demand peer-to-peer video service for situations like this.
It’s not YouTube, but it’s close. Google has unveiled its soon-to-launch peer-to-peer video service Helpouts, which will allow anyone to get expert help from anyone with skills and expertise to share.
The face-to-face live video calling service isn’t live yet but is currently looking for experts who can list their skills under the categories of Arts & Music, Computers & Electronics, Cooking, Health & Counseling, Education, Fitness & Nutrition, Fashion & Beauty, Home & Garden, or Other. The Helpout sessions are hosted via Google Hangout video calls, which users can make from their computer or mobile device. Experts can set time frames for their availability and allow customers to schedule Helpouts for those windows.
Experts can offer their services free-of-charge (say, if they just want to promote their business), or they can charge a fee. All transactions will be handled through Google Wallet. A platform fee of 20% will be applied to all Helpouts.
Because the Helpouts are powered by Hangouts, experts and customers will need to have Google+ profiles, which they can create when they sign up for Helpouts. So the service will obviously give something of a boost to Google+, which has been sluggish in amassing users. After two years, Google+ has less than 200 million users, compared to Facebook’s one billion or LinkedIn’s 225 million.
It would also give Google a solid foothold in e-commerce, particularly for live services, which other, smaller startups have been building names for themselves. LiveNinja was created to do exactly what Helpouts is aiming to do, while other startups are focusing on specific niches, like Wello for fitness, InstaEdu for tutoring, and LiveMocha for online language learning.
Google has reportedly partnered with a number of big name companies for Helpouts, including Weight Watchers, Sears, One Medical Group, and Alliance Frances.