Google has this crowdsourcing thing down pat. They know what the most important trends in the world are by their ability to index and categorize millions of searches per second. They know roughly how many people have the flu virus, where it is spreading, how fast, and how saturated regions are, all by tracking online search activity. In similar ways, they know which Halloween costumes are popular in your city and even playfully give you an idea of whether you’ll be the third “Why Tha F*** You Lyin'” guy at the party you’re headed to. I could provide many more examples of ways Google has been able to discern and track the important things happening in your offline life by crowdsourcing your online activity. Now, they dip their toe into the offline world again with their new app aimed at college students called “Who’s Down?”. Does it sound a tad bit innuendo-y? Absolutely. But, I assure you it’s not positioned merely as a Tinder offshoot.
On the app, students ask their peers who’s down to do… I don’t know, stuff. “Who’s down to go to Dumpling House at 8?” “Who’s down to watch the Celtics game at Professor Zhu’s house later?” Stuff like that. You can “like” propositions or comment that you’d be down. It’s like a scribbling your club’s guest speaker event on the side boards of Aldrich, but with this app, you at least have some idea of who might show.
Why does it matter? Well, Google gets information on which venues are great for viewing football games, which burger joints are open late AND crowd favorites, and which people are influencers in a community. Users of the app are happily crowdsourcing all of this information for Google. Google gets another source of information that leads to better placed ads and effective audience targeting.
Skeptics may mention that Google already tracks location data on Android phones and iPhones with Google Maps active. They could get the same information that way, right? Wrong. This app, SHOULD IT PROVE SUCCESSFUL AND SEE SIGNIFICANT ADOPTION, could provide the holy grail of crowd sourced advertising information… Context. People, places, times, relationships, dependencies, influencers, etc. All under the guise of a helpful app designed to let your friends know you want to hang out. Google is trying to get these conversations out of text messages and group chats, GroupMe and Whatsapp. They want to be the mediator, the connector. If “Who’s Down” takes off, it could be a huge factor in an advertiser’s willingness to pay.