A brand new product from Google was released last week, known simply as Keen, and has a lot of people talking about it. It is seemingly a reconceptualization of Google Alerts, which sent email alerts when a name or issue you had tagged showed up in search results. Much sleeker in delivery and design (in-app format), Keen lets people select their content and organize it into modules of things they might have an interest in (houseplants, for example, or birdwatching). An artificial intelligence (AI) engine then matches those specific topics (called individual “keens”) and suggests related information that might also interest you.
Some have compared it to an automated Pinterest.
One of Keen’s founders, CJ Adams, came up with the idea for the app while trying to figure out a way to use his spare time more efficiently. He realized that, rather than scrolling aimlessly through fragmented information, he might be able to learn more about a new topic or skill if there were a way to organize those interests.
So, How is Keen Different, Exactly?
- Integrated artificial intelligence technology. What distinguishes Keen from other similar products is the use of AI in the design. It allows users to learn more deeply about a topic because it suggests the most relevant and related information. According to a post by Adams on Google, the recommendations improve as someone saves and organizes more items to a keen. Each time you add a link to a keen, you refine your interests, helping Keen find you more and better content over time.
- Social networkability. Keen also allows users to share their keens, publicly or with friends, family, or other collaborators. Users can also curate keens for one another, where the recipient’s usage establishes further AI parameters to customize the curated content to that person individually.
- Android development came first. Unlike many other apps that focus on the Apple operating system, Keen is available first for Android and by web browser.
- The program design is more user-friendly than other apps of its type. Early user reviews are saying that Keen is a more exciting way, visually and otherwise, to organize these kinds of topics of interest. This streamlining alone may give it an edge.
- Niche-friendly. Because of its organization, many think it will work better for niche communities, where community members can follow other users with similar keens and receive alerts when their keens are updated.
Some critics say Keen is too much like Pinterest. This has been by far the most widespread criticism thus far, in tandem with murmurs that Keen is just another example of Google trying to squeeze Pinterest out of the market.
People also say that it encourages fringe beliefs. Like most social media, the design is geared to show users more of what they already like or agree with. Whether this is a deserved criticism is unclear at this time.
No matter what, Keen doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.