Google’s Next Billion Users (NBU) team has announced the national roll-out of its Neighbourly app which helps people by sourcing local information from their neighbors. The app was in beta for months and has been in testing for the Mumbai users. It is now ready for a countrywide rollout and Google will launch the app in Delhi and Bangalore today. More Indian cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, and Kolkata would be covered in the next few weeks.
Over 15 lakh people already use the Neighbourly app and another 15 lakh have been waitlisted. Dubbed as the India inspired social network, the app is the last ditch effort of Google to take back the market share from Facebook and WhatsApp.
Google’s NBU team developed the Neighbourly app after extensively studying the Indian market. It found that Indians generally shop, hangout or work within 1-2 kilometers from their home. It also found out that the rapid pace of urbanization has led to the movement of people from one city to another. This migration is having a social impact as people are being pushed into newer and unfamiliar neighborhoods. The app aims to fill these social gaps and help people and build trust among the local communities.
“Right now when you need some information, you knock on your neighbor’s door or send a text message to your colleague. What we want to do is to make it easier for people to share information they have and get the information they need about their neighbourhood in a way that’s easy,” said Ben Fohner, senior product manager in Google’s NBU team.
Google has also taken care of the privacy concerns that people might have. Neighbourly is very different from the social networking app like Facebook. There are no user profiles, no personal information is ever displayed, no contact details are shared an there are no user profile pictures for others to identify you. However, Google has said that it will block any inappropriate content or user from the platform. The Neighbourly team has trained individuals who review content in multiple languages. The app also cannot be used to spread fake news as it doesn’t allow users to air messages.
Lastly, Google doesn’t plan to launch Neighbourly in any other country at the moment. “Looking beyond [India] obviously this need exists everywhere and our hope is that we can take what we’ve learned from building ‘Neighbourly’ here and expand that to other countries as well. [But] it is not something we are doing immediately,” said Fohner.