On Thursday, Google quietly launched Keen, a social platform, and a rival to Pinterest that lets users create topic boards of their interests and share them with others. The new app was developed by Area 120, Google’s internal team, in collaboration with another team at Google, named People and AI Research (PAIR), which focuses on machine learning technologies.
“On Keen, which is a web and Android app, you say what you want to spend more time on, and then curate content from the web and people you trust to help make that happen,” said Cj Adams, the editor of the project, in a blog post announcing Keen. “You make a “keen,” which can be about any topic, whether it’s baking delicious bread at home, getting into birding or researching typography. Keen lets you curate the content you love, share your collection with others and find new content based on what you have saved.”
Once you indicate the topic you are interested in, Keen may suggest additional ones related to what you were looking for. The platform will also provide you with useful content like YouTube videos, articles, blog posts, images, or anything that will help you discover more about your interest.
To help curate content on Keen, Google uses machine learning along with Google Search. The more content users save on the platform, the more artificial intelligence learns to then make an overall experience better and more personalized.
The app is meant to help people spend more time on what really matters for them and fascinates them, instead of mindlessly scrolling news feed and wasting time. The idea came to the app’s co-founder Cj Adams when he realized that he was spending too much time browsing feeds, pics, and videos, instead of enhancing his own skills of something he was fond of.
Keen is now available for Android devices and on the web, with required sign-in via your Google account.
Apart from creating their own keens, users can also follow the topic boards of others (which is quite similar to following someone’s board on Pinterest), discovering their interests and passions, and also get notified whenever new content is added to the lists. Keens can either be made private or openly available to everyone.
“Keen isn’t intended to be a place to spend endless hours browsing. Instead, it’s a home for your interests: a place to grow them, share them with loved ones and find things that will help in making this precious life count,” Cj also stated in a blog post.
Introducing Keen marks a new step towards an attempt to increase user engagement by personalizing content they are exposed to. However, it may have a drawback as well, as such automated personalization limits information and different opinions that users will simply not be able to observe.