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What is Google Keen? A look at Pinterest's best rival

Is the Pinterest competitor set for success, or will it die?
By
March 17, 2022

Google has launched many social networking services that have never caught on with the general public. That includes Google Plus, which started out in 2011 with a lot of hype, but finally closed in 2019. In June 2020, the company quietly revealed it was working on a more modest social networking project, Google Keen.

Fast-forward to 2022, and Keen continues to be a bit of an underground Google project very few people know about. The truth is it’s a pretty fun and educating platform. It just may be Pinterest’s most promising competitor. We’re here to tell you all about it, so let’s dig into the details.

The origins of Google Keen

Google Keen was first revealed in a Medium.com post by company team member Cj Adams. In his post, he said that the idea for the service came about when his wife wanted to share information, links, and more about her birding hobby with her husband. Adams, along with three other Google team members, decided they wanted to create a service that made sharing info and resources about hobbies easier.

The four members worked on Keen as part of Google’s Area 120 experimental project division. They also collaborated with the company’s People and AI Research (PAIR) team, which is developing machine learning-based systems to help people out.

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What platforms are available for Google Keen?

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The service is currently available as a web app at Staykeen.com. It’s also available as an Android mobile app, via a web wrapper. The Android app has been in “experimental phase” since launch, so we aren’t sure when (or if) a full app will be available, or when other platforms will be supported.

Is Google Keen free?

The service is free to use, although you will need to access it via a free Google account.

How to create a Keen page

In the end, Google Keen both looks and operates a bit like the popular Pinterest service. When you sign up with your free Google account, all you have to do is type in a title. For example, you may be interested in learning archery. In both the Keen website or the mobile web app, just type in something like “Learning archery,” and then tap or click on the Next box in the top-right corner.

You will then see a series of Google search-related web links based on your title. Click or tap on the closest links to your interest and hit Next. You can now upload a cover image, add a description, and choose whether you want your Keen to be Private, Shared, or Public. Finally, click or tap on the Create button.

main page

You should see your newly created Keen page. Click on it, and you will be taken to your main page. There are three tabs on your Keen page. Let’s take a look at them.

  • Gems: This is where your saved items are stored. You can add content to this page by hitting the gem icon in any post within the Explore page.
  • Explore: This is a page with related content, based on Google’s algorithmic search superpowers. It’s a great way to find new “Gems.”
  • Searches: This section allows you to add more search topics to your Keen page. It can help you discover better articles and keep your Keen page more focused.

You can manually add new photos, links, or even texts on your Keen page via the Add button on top. One can also use the button to add more via search, or add new sections to your Keen page.

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Move over to the top-right corner and click on the three-dot menu button. You’ll find the Edit keen button, which allows you to add more collaborators to your page. The Share button lets you send a link to your Keen page to anyone, or you can click on Invite collaborators to grant someone editing rights.

One interesting thing about this service is that it uses machine learning to regularly offer suggestions for new links and content for your page.

How to use the Keen bookmarklet

You don’t have to open StayKeen.com to add new content to any Keen page. The Keen bookmarklet is readily available to all desktop users using a browser. Essentially, it works like any other browser shortcut. All you have to do is go to StayKeen.com/bookmarklet and click and drag the +Keen button to your bookmark bar. Whenever you’re on a page you want to add to your Keen, simply click on it, and you’ll get a pop-up where you can add the current page to your Keen.

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Will it last?

Google Keen is designed as an experiment, and it hasn’t truly evolved much since its inception. That said, the project hasn’t been completely abandoned, either. The last updates were made in December 2021. They were relatively minor updates, but at least we know someone is keeping an eye on Keen after almost two years since its launch.

Many of the company’s Area 120 projects end up shutting down, although features from these projects sometimes show up in other products. It will be interesting to see if Keen will end up in its own stand-alone service, or if it will also be shut down. For now, all we can say is Keen’s future is uncertain, and we haven’t seen it generate much steam.

Have you signed up for Keen, and if so, what has your experience been like with the service?