Google has often been extolled for its product innovations. However, it seems slowdown has cast its shadow on the company’s `innovation spirit’ too. The search giant, who is taking a harder line on managing expenses as the recession curbs spending on online ads, has been almost on a shutting spree. The past six months witnessed the company pull the plug on as many as nine of its new products.
Several of these causalities include products launched with lot of fanfare like Google Lively, which was widely believed to be the company’s answer to Second Life.
Here’s looking into the products/services Google has dumped in the last few months.
Broadcast radio ad business
Google Inc has abandoned its efforts to sell advertising for broadcast radio stations, acknowledging that the three-year project has failed.
The leading Web search company said that it plans to sell its Radio Automation business, which created software to automate broadcast radio programming, and phase out its Audio Ads service.
The move will likely result in up to 40 people being laid off, Google said. Google has been re-appraising initiatives intended to expand its income beyond Internet advertising, which accounts for more than 90 per cent of total revenue.
Advertisers will continue to be able to use Audio Ads until May 31, the company said. Google — which had 20,222 full-time employees as of December 31 — would instead focus its efforts on placing ads on streaming audio over the Internet, according to company’s vice president of product management, Susan Wojcicki.
Google plans to continue investing in its television ad business. It also is seeking ways to sell more advertising on online audio services, which younger audiences are using.
In July 2008 Google launched Google Lively, a 3D virtual reality service, with much fanfare. Four months, and Internet giant’s take on Second Life ran out of fuel. Google announced that it is discontinuing Lively by the end of the year.
The shut down reflected Lively’s inability to stand out from the rest of the virtual reality crowd. Lively was Web-based and allowed anyone to set up virtual spaces, such as rooms, that could be embedded onto blogs or Facebook pages.
Google management concluded that it needed to sharpen its focus on its primary business of Internet search and advertising as the company’s revenue growth showed signs of a deteriorating economy.
“We’ve also always accepted that when you take these kinds of risks not every bet is going to pay off. It has been a tough decision, but we want to ensure that we prioritise our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business,” Google wrote in a blog post.
According to the blog, the employees working on Lively were reassigned other jobs after the service shut down. The pack of virtual worlds is led by Second Life, where people deploy animated alter egos known as avatars to pursue digital fantasies.
Dodgeball was a company that Google acquired in May 2005. The location-based meeting service allowed users to share their current locations using SMS messages. Come January 2009, the company announces that Dodgeball will be shut down “in the next couple of months.”
Here goes the closure announcemet: “Google has decided to shut down dodgeball. I know this is kind of a bummer, but the site has been in maintenance mode for a while now, and it’s just time to shut it down for good.”
“We’re planning on doing this in two stages. Everything will continue to function as-is until the end of February (can anyone say shutdown party?). At that point, we’ll turn off the SMS service and the site will enter read-only mode. We’ll leave it like that for about a month giving you time to save or export any of your data that you might want to keep. Sometime around the beginning of April we’ll shut the site down for good, delete all the user accounts, and the associated data.”
Incidentally, Dodgeball founders quit Google in April 2007. Both were reportedly unhappy with the way Google was handling the service and blamed Google of apathy.
The online mashup creation service by Google has too become a history now. The company plans to phase out the service in next six months. The service, which was in private beta, is being replaced by App Engine. It was direct competition for Yahoo Pipes and Microsoft Popfly.
Google in a blog post wrote, “we will be shutting down the Mashup Editor in six months. While it is always hard to say goodbye to a product, when we launched the Mashup Editor as a private beta last year, we did so to better understand the needs of you, our developers. And you spoke, and much of what we learned together is now a big part of App Engine, the new infrastructure for hosted developer applications. We look forward to working with you in the migration to App Engine, and canâ€™t wait to see what you build.”
Google Video Uploading
The web search giant bid farewell to its Google Video service last month, a free video sharing website and also a video search engine that allows users to upload video clips.
Though Google is not removing any content hosted on Google Video but users will no longer be able to upload new content to the service. The videos that are already in users account will remain hosted on Google Video. Users will have access to all the existing management tools for them.
The web giant in its blog post wrote, “In a few months, we will discontinue support for uploads to Google Video. We’ve always maintained that Google Video’s strength is in the search technology that makes it possible for people to search videos from across the web, regardless of where they may be hosted. And this move will enable us to focus on developing these technologies further to the benefit of searchers worldwide.”
Google Catalog too faces axe. The service it launched in 2001 that made it possible to search the full text of hundreds and thousands of product catalogs. This was Google’s first big effort to make offline information available online.
Catalogs helped to scan and make the full text of books available online. The search shown catalogs with pages that contain users search terms. Each listing shows the cover of the catalog, an image of the catalog page where the terms were found, and a close-up of the section of the page containing the terms.
The announcement was made by Ounit Soni, Google product manager, on the Inside Google Book Search blog. The posting said that Google’s Catalog Search helped the search giant develop other key initiatives like Google Book Search, as well as learn about how users read scanned documents online.
Read the farewell note: â€œIt was a great experiment.â€ Accepting that the service was not a great success the blog goes, â€œNonetheless, in recent years, Catalog Search hasn’t been as popular as some of our other products. So from (January 15), we’re bidding it a fond farewell and focusing our efforts to bring more and more types of offline information such as magazines, newspapers and of course, books, online.â€
Google has also halted further active development on Google Notebook, the free online application that lets users save and organise clips of information while conducting research online. Though the web giant will continue to maintain the service for current users, it will no longer add features nor will accept any new users.
The service lets users write notes, and to clip text, images, and links from pages during browsing. These are saved to an online “notebook” with sharing and collaboration features. Google Notebook works as an interactive scratch pad for any visited web pages, offering to collect web findings within the browser window.
Google in its blog wrote, “We will no longer support the Notebook Extension, but as always users who have already signed up will continue to have access to their data via the web interface. However, existing users wonâ€™t be able to use the browser extension, which makes the service significantly less useful. Among Googleâ€™s suggestions for replacements are SearchWiki, Google Docs, Tasks (Gmail), and Google Bookmarks.”
Google’s microblogging service, Jaiku, too became a causality recently. This means Google will â€œno longer actively develop the Jaiku codebase.â€
Jaiku, as it is today, may live on with support from a `volunteer team’ of Google employees, but the main product is getting ported to the Google App Engine. Google bought Jaiku, a microblogging service similar to Twitter, in late 2007.
Google in its blog post wrote, “The new Jaiku Engine will include support for OAuth, and we’re excited about developers using this proven code as a starting point in creating a freely available and federated, open source microblogging platform.”
Jaiku was founded in February 2006 by Jyri Engestrom and Petteri Koponen from Finland. It was purchased by Google in October 2007.
Print ad programme
Google is also putting an end to its print advertisement programme on February 28. Google said that advertisers who already have campaigns booked at one of the approximately 800 US newspapers that participate will still have ads placed through March 31.
Spencer Spinnell, director of the programme, said it did not â€œcreate the impact that we — or our partners — wanted.â€ Google set up the print ads business in November 2006, in an effort to make it easier for customers to put ads in newspapers.
Google’s vice president of product management, Susan Wojcicki, wrote on the company’s blog, “We have always accepted that if you take risks not all of them will pay off.”