Outsourcing Expertise: eBay and Google Expert Networks Coming Down the Pipeline

Image from TechCruch

We spend a lot of time talking about ways we can best manage our time. And when there’s a lot on our plates, the dream is just to get someone to take care of business for us. Fortunately, we looked at ways to do just that: there are a lot of small-scale outsourcing options available, connecting people that have surplus time with people that have a deficit.

This has always been one of the promises of the web: connecting people that wouldn’t otherwise be connected. And while the time crunch issue has been addressed, some major players have identified an opportunity to make a different kind of valuable link: connecting experts with those that need expertise. Both Google and eBay are rolling out services that promise to link up people that know something with people that want to know something.

These services share something in common with Elance, which we talked about before, but each aims to carve out a specific, special niche when it comes to connecting specialists with those who need their help.

eBay opened the salvo with SecretGuru. Currently in beta and available only in the UK, SecretGuru is an attempt to bring a curatorial eye to selling expertise. Unlike Elance, which allows almost anyone to ply their services, SecretGuru is highly selective about which experts it offers. It wants to create “memorable experiences,” from specialized cooking classes to learning to make shoes to personal style advice.

And while eBay is providing the platform for these experts, much like its flagship auction site, it looks like much of the responsibility falls on the gurus themselves–each page provides a bio of the guru, touting their skills, and a description of the experience they’re offering. And while eBay prides itself on their protections for the buyer and the seller, their how-it-works page lets you know that if you’re not satisfied with your experience, the first thing you should do is contact the guru themselves.

Not to be outdone, TechCrunch reports that Google has a new secret project in the works called (for now) “Helpouts,” which, in utilitarian Google fashion, aims to offer less of an experience and more of a way to connection knowledge experts with knowledge consumers. Apparently built on their Hangouts platform and integrated with Google Wallet, their payment service, Helpouts will “take shape as a marketplace that enables individuals and small and large businesses to buy and sell services via live video.”

Interestingly, this isn’t just about scheduling a time to learn something–Google wants to offer real-time expertise for immediate questions or issues that come up. Have a programming issue you just can’t solve? Want to take a yoga class right now? Helpouts hopes to connect people with those kind of needs with people who can offer those services.

There’s no word yet on when these services will be available on a broader basis. But it does give us a sense of where these tech giants see the future of business on the web–not just to move products or eyeballs, but deliver real, useful services to people and businesses beyond the computer screen.