Google is working on a new social app for small groups to edit photos together

While Google continues to add more features toits two social communication apps Allo and Duo, TechCrunch has learned that it has quietly been working onleast one more social app. Google has beendevelopinga new social app that lets small groups edit photos together and then organise them for future enjoyment:think Path meets Snapchat-style filtersand edits meets Googles imaging smarts.

Google confirmed the existence of the app after we asked about it, and toldus that (for now)is an experiment, one of many its running.

But it sounds like Google may be downplaying this a bit. According to our sources, one plan had been to launchthe app duringits I/O event in May much as it did last year with Duo and Allo although from what we understand right now there is no specific date set.

Could the announcement this week of Clips from Apple, a video editing app that will also use AI, image recognition and speech recognition, also have played a part in deciding timing?

We also dont know what nameGoogle isplanning for it, but here is whatwe do know.

The approach the developers aretaking is not to make yet another messaging appbut more of a collaborative social photo app. Users can create groups for sharing pictures. And then group members would all be able to edit and tag the same pictures.

Alongside this, Google would apply some of its own computer vision expertise and technology currently used across services like YouTube, Googles image search, and Google Photos to help usersalong: it will be able to identify objects in a photo to tag them and organise them and in the future search for them, as well as to help edit and apply filters to the pictures.

We think some of the photo features in theappsound a lot like Clips, the app that Apple is planning to release in April that will use They are building a competitor to Path, is how one person we know described it, in reference to the social app founded by Dave Morin, the investor who also was an early employee at Facebook; and Shawn Fanning and Dustin Mireau, both formerly of Napster.

Path gained some early popularity for providing a way for small groups of friends to share pictures and chat with each other, one of the early counterbalances to the more open-ended, share-everything tendencies on serviceslike Twitter and Facebook.

In a little twist of what might have been, Google even tried to buy it. But as is often theway withapps, Path eventually waned in popularity. It was eventually sold to Koreanmessaging giantKakao in 2015 (its still around btw).

Google has had a very patchy history when it comes to social media, andits an area that the companystill trying to get right. The current strategy seems to be one of running a bunch of slightly different apps and efforts simultaneously to see what works, and what does not (which could be one reason why this was worked on as a separate app rather than, say, as part of an update to Google Photos).

While Allo and Duo continue to get updates, Spaces a group app for sharing and exploring links to things by tapping into other existing Google services, which seems closestto what its trying to build in the app thats being tested now closed down after less than a year.

Then there is G+, still going but not the social networking magnet that Google once envisioned it could be. Google Wave, Google Buzz and Orkut are among the various efforts that have come and gone after failing to get enough traction.

Why keep returning to social? Because Googlefaces competition from the likes ofFacebook, Twitter and now Snapchat for consumers and thus advertisers attention. Many (not all but many) users today donot think of search engines first when looking for information, decidinghow tospendtheir money, and findingthings to entertain themselves. They go to these other apps, and that ultimately can cut into Googles mainstay advertising business and revenues.

YouTube, with its focus on user-generated videosmixed with premium content like Vevo, remainsGoogles most successful social play, although its known more for ushering in virally popular materialrather than for helping to keep the conversation going around it (although Googledoes do some of that, too, in videoscomments section).

The fact that Google is considering how it can leverage some of the tech thats been built to help power image search on YouTube, its search portal and its Photos app, to see if thatcan be used to get a foothold in social is interesting. As is the timing: Apple will be releasing its own gentle step into social media apps Clips, which lets you edit videos and then share them on various social networks in April.

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