Google Helpouts seems like deja vu

A few years ago, way back in the late 90s, Citrix Online, the maker of GoToMeeting, was known as Expertcity. They had a service to provide computer help using experts who would connect to users via a browser based screen sharing application. That didn’t work out so good so, they pivoted and created GoToMyPC and then GoToMeeting.

Google is going the other way with a new service called Helpouts that is invitation only right now:

A Google+ account is required to use Helpouts. If you don’t have a Google+ account you’ll be able to create one when you sign up for Helpouts. Currently, your Helpouts profile information is auto-completed based on your Google+ profile, so changes you make to your Google+ profile will automatically update in Helpouts. Learn more about your profile

Helpouts are face-to-face video calls powered by Google+ Hangouts. You can start and join a video call from your computer, Android, iPhone, and iPad devices. The Helpouts platform is different from Hangouts because Helpouts takes care of all of the setup and maintenance associated with delivering your services – from payment, to scheduling, reputation management, and customer acquisition.

In the past, Google also tried to get into a sort of quasi-services business with Knol. That got shut down in May 2012 and survives as an Open Source project called Annotum

Okay, it wasn’t a cool video chat based service. But, the expectation always is that Google will somehow be driving a big audience to you if you are a part of its ecosphere and that remains to be seen.

Is this yet another attempt to create more impetus for Google+ or is it a promotional front for Hangouts or is it really a new business opportunity?

Probably a bit of everything. Google isn’t that good at a bit of everything. It is good at simple stuff that gets a particular job done easier and at no cost to the user while driving traffic to Google’s main businesses.

On the other hand, this may all just be another way to get people to leverage Google+ to define their online presence. Judging by the impact of Google Authorship on search and now the notion that your Google+ profile is defining an expertise here, the future of search may tied to influence and authority. Kind of like a giant cluster eff of social high school-ness.

Can’t wait. Full disclosure: I put my name in the hat with Helpout to be an expert in Online Journalism. If they don’t accept me, I will know that our robot overlords are revealing themselves much quicker than I had anticipated.