Google needs help. More specifically, the Internet giant is looking for people who are experts on basically anything to lead some of the first sessions for its soon-to-launch Helpouts video calling program.
Helpouts is a face-to-face, live video calling service, based on the company's Google+ Hangouts product, that the company has been testing internally for some time. The service is designed to let professionals or experts in a particular area share their expertise or knowledge with others who want to learn from them, for a price.
Helpouts could provide an additional platform for Google to attract new users beyond its usual channels within the Google+ social network. It may also give Google a strong e-commerce business in providing users with more personalized expert information that can't be gathered from a simple search on Google.com.
If someone is an IT expert looking to make some extra cash, Helpouts can connect that person with less technically savvy people to, say, hook up a wireless router or connect a laptop to a printer, Google said in one example of the service.
The company is stressing the social side of the service. "Helpouts is a new way to connect people who need help with people who can give help, over live video, anytime, anywhere," the service's current landing page proclaims.
Helpouts is not yet open to the public, but the company is looking to attract people with expertise across a range of topics to offer sessions within the program once it goes live. Google is looking to bring on people and businesses who are experts across a number of categories, including information technology, home and garden skills, fashion and education, a Google spokeswoman said.
People who are interested can visit the Helpouts site to submit their contact information. "If we feel they are a good fit, we will follow up with them and possibly extend an invitation to apply," the Google spokeswoman said. Users will need an invitation code to sign up as a provider and create listings on Helpouts.
Google declined to say exactly when Helpouts would launch, but it will be rolling out soon, the spokeswoman said. The company has been conducting internal tests of the product with multiple partners for some time.
Once it goes live, here's how Helpouts will work: Expert providers can charge for their sessions or offer Helpouts for free if they want, but a platform fee must still be paid to Google for each completed Helpout. The service is designed to let people start or join a call from their desktop computer, Android-based mobile device, iPhone or iPad.
Helpouts is designed to make it easy for people to grow their businesses by setting their own rates and getting paid online, according to the company. Providers can work on their own schedules, whether they're at home or on the go.
If the provider charges a fee for the session, both providers and customers will need to use Google Wallet for the payment, according to the Helpouts site.
Helpouts has a strong social component for a reason: Social networking is an area of Google's business that the company is continually seeking to scale out to better compete against rivals such as Facebook and Twitter. While Facebook and Twitter have more than 1 billion and 200 million active users, respectively, Google+ has about 190 million, the company reported in May.
Google already provides videos covering practically every topic through its YouTube video-sharing site, some of which are instructional in nature. But Helpouts looks to be a step up in both the level of interaction and the qualification of the experts, given its current invitation-only sign-up process.
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