Updated: Google is shutting down its Google Helpouts service on April 20, 2015, the service’s website has now been updated to reflect.
Earlier this morning, we noticed the mobile applications for Google Helpouts, Google’s service that uses Google Hangouts video chat to connect consumers with experts online, had disappeared from both Google Play and iTunes. The apps were a later addition to Helpouts, with the iOS version launching last spring, following the late 2013 arrival of Helpouts itself, and were designed to allow users to book and participate in video chat sessions right from their mobile device.
The idea with Helpouts has been to leverage Google’s identity tools, payment technologies and online video service in order to provide web users with both free and paid advice and support sessions covering a range of topics. Today, the Helpouts website continues to work, offering sessions on topics like Photography, Parenting, Fashion and Beauty, Cooking and much more. Unfortunately for Google, much of this sort of advice is already available for free on its other video site, YouTube. While YouTube videos may not connect you with a live person in real-time, they can often give you the answers you’re looking for, and YouTube’s advertisements help the videos’ creators generate additional income.
Google’s Helpouts service has not been without its challenges on the monetization front, either. A couple of months ago, Google had to shut down paid Helpouts in the EU thanks to changing tax laws. Today, the website advises providers from the U.K. and Ireland that they may only offer free Helpouts, and EU customers may only take free Helpouts. That’s likely been a blow to the service’s ability to attract providers and consumers in these markets.
Meanwhile, the Helpouts mobile applications themselves were far from popular. Although they saw some gains at first launch – probably out of initial curiosity – the highest rank the iOS app ever achieved was #95 in the Lifestyle category on iTunes. The Android version fared only a little better, climbing to #29 on Google Play shortly after its debut. Before being pulled out of the stores, however, both the iOS app and Android version were unrated according to App Annie, meaning they had both fallen below #1,500 on any app store category.
The Google Play version appears to have been pulled earlier this month, while the iOS version has only now disappeared.
Google historically has struggled in the Q&A and advice-giving space when it comes to launching standalone services designed to provide its users with more information beyond its blue links. The company in the past experimented with a Quora or Yahoo Answers-like service called Google Answers, where researchers were paid to answer direct inquiries. Google shut this down back in 2006 after running it for four years. An expert-led Wikipedia competitor called Knol was launched the following year, and then it too was terminated in 2012. Helpouts was the latest iteration of Google’s desire to cater to users’ questions on its own platform.
If anything, Google’s Knowledge Graph has been the most successful effort to provide more direct answers for web searchers. Using data from a variety of sources, Google can now provide information on a wide range of queries, including most recently health information, without users having to visit websites.
UPDATE: We reached out to Google this morning to ask about the status of the Google Helpouts mobile applications. While we have yet to hear back from the company on the matter, following the publishing of this report the Google Helpouts website was changed to reflect that the service would be shutting down. The site will remain live until April 20th, it now reads.
UPDATE 2: Here is Google’s message on the matter, posted on the Helpouts site:
Saying “so long” to our Helpouts community.
We have some sad news to share: Helpouts will be shutting down on April 20, 2015.
Since launching in 2013, Helpouts has been a home for people to connect with experts on topics they want to learn about or seek advice and solutions to everyday challenges. The Helpouts community includes some engaged and loyal contributors, but unfortunately, it hasn’t grown at the pace we had expected. Sadly, we’ve made the tough decision to shut down the product.
Starting April 20, you’ll be able to download your Helpouts history using Google Takeout (available until November 1, 2015).
We want to thank our community for all their support — both the providers who shared their expertise with the world, and the people who needed some extra help or advice along the way. You’ve had a lot to contribute — and we’ve loved learning alongside you.