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Google To Shut Down 10 Products 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-the-weakest-links dept.
Google announced yesterday that it is closing a number of its current products and merging others into similar services. Many of them will continue to be available in the near future to facilitate the transition. The list of affected services includes Aardvark, Desktop, Fast Flip, Maps API for Flash, Google Pack, Google Web Security, Image Labeler, Notebook, Sidewiki, and Subscriber Links. Google's Alan Eustace wrote. "This will make things much simpler for our users, improving the overall Google experience. It will also mean we can devote more resources to high impact products—the ones that improve the lives of billions of people. All the Googlers working on these projects will be moved over to higher-impact products. As for our users, we’ll communicate directly with them as we make these changes, giving sufficient time to make the transition and enabling them to take their data with them." The link contains brief descriptions of how each service is getting phased out.
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Google To Shut Down 10 Products

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  • by ge7 (2194648) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @12:54PM (#37296778)
    The recent developments within Google and their moving to identity servi.. social networking with demands for ID scans if someone reports you for "fake" name, and other general evil stuff just shows Google has matured as a company and is now just like everyone else. It's not a recent development either, it has been going on for several years, but now everyone else is starting to notice it too. They cut down the amount of geeky stuff like work-on-your-own-projects, they go aggressively into markets and they use every evil marketing tactic in the book.

    That is fine. Every company is like that. But slashdotters should stop giving them free passes because they're "google".
    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @12:58PM (#37296804)
      Some experiments succeed, some experiments fail. Google tries a lot more of these types of things than anyone else. Hopefully those who use these services will find something else to meet their needs.
      • Note that it isn't necessarily a case of failure either.

        I was surprised to see Google Desktop go away - but it does make sense. Vista+ and Mac both have desktop widgets, and XP+ have a desktop search utility from Microsoft already. I suspect the same applies to Macs. Not to mention that Google sees 'the cloud' as a major strategy, and searching 'the cloud' is more important than a user's desktop.

        So while perhaps Google's offering may have been preferable, there's plenty of alternatives and little incenti

        • by hedwards (940851)

          From the list it looks like most of the products have already been largely integrated into other Google services or in the case of notebook will be automatically exported to Google Docs.

          With a small amount of work, one could create a form that does the same thing as notebook for oneself.

        • Try looking for '(public) web annotation'. I remember playing with a Mozilla Suite extension years ago that more or less did what Sidewiki does. Incidentally, there's a Wikimedia project proposal [wikimedia.org] for this, too.
          • Yes, I used to play with a similar utility - although intended only for personal annotation, not entirely unlike the Highlights addon - a few years back. The main issue is the lack of a large community. 500 people, say, annotating random pages means it's very unlikely that two people within that group ever see the same page + annotations except for possibly major sites.

            That's why I was a bit more enthused with Google's offering - it at least had the potential of reaching many millions of users.

            That said,

        • At first I was surprised that Google Desktop was going away too, but then I remembered that the cloud is the future and nobody has any need for a desktop anymore.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bonch (38532) *

        Microsoft used to get mocked for its constant stream of pointless experiments and go-nowhere products. It seems to be what companies do when they're too big and don't know what to focus on.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Riceballsan (816702)
          Well the difference here is many of these projects produced some functionality that can be merged into other google products. Just because the projects themselves didn't take off on their own, does not mean they were go-nowhere projects.
        • by ajs (35943)

          Microsoft used to get mocked for its constant stream of pointless experiments and go-nowhere products. It seems to be what companies do when they're too big and don't know what to focus on.

          I thought we mocked Microsoft for the crap it pumped out that didn't make any sense and wasn't creative in the least, like Bob. I never mocked most of the cool things that came out of Microsoft Research.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Where have you been that you think Google only just changed? They've been withdrawing from a market at the first sign they won't roll over everyone else for years. Their company mission is to organize (and profit from) the world. That includes you, hoss. Wake up!

    • by bonch (38532) *

      The recent developments within Google and their moving to identity servi.. social networking with demands for ID scans if someone reports you for "fake" name, and other general evil stuff just shows Google has matured as a company and is now just like everyone else.

      They've been just like everyone else since they went public.

    • by Dogtanian (588974) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @03:20PM (#37297656) Homepage

      But slashdotters should stop giving them free passes because they're "google".

      Said it before and I'll say it again- the idea that most Slashdotters are uncritically in love with Google is out of date. It's undeniably true that up until around the mid-2000s there was a borderline fanboyish attitude of indulgence towards Google. However, that's changed quite noticeably in the past five or so years. While it may be argued that Google still gets cut more slack than they deserve, the era of "Google can do no wrong" being representative of most Slashdotters is now over.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Didn't you hear? It's not a social networking service, it's an identity tracking service with social networking features. I am now using it solely to complain about Google's real names policy, and I went back to sharing everything on facebook, or just posting it to my blog.

    • by swillden (191260)

      They cut down the amount of geeky stuff like work-on-your-own-projects

      I'm a software engineer at Google, and this isn't true. There has been no pushback on 20% projects; and lots of people still have them (I do). Nor, from what I can see, is there any significant limitation on employees' ability to choose what kinds of things they want to spend their 20% time on.

      Rather, I think actions like this are a natural consequence of the freedom given to Googlers to work on what they want to. That freedom means that Google ends up doing a lot of random things. The things that loo

    • >Google has matured as a company and is now just like everyone else
      You mean now actually listens to all its shareholders, instead of just the 2 guys who created it in the first place....as they do not have controlling shares any longer in the company.

    • The recent developments within Google and their moving to identity servi.. social networking with demands for ID scans if someone reports you for "fake" name, and other general evil stuff just shows Google has matured as a company and is now just like everyone else. It's not a recent development either, it has been going on for several years, but now everyone else is starting to notice it too. They cut down the amount of geeky stuff like work-on-your-own-projects, they go aggressively into markets and they use every evil marketing tactic in the book. That is fine. Every company is like that. But slashdotters should stop giving them free passes because they're "google".

      This actually makes me want to use their products more. Instead of creating anything their engineers feel like, they are focusing on what they can support that is in line with their profit center. Good. No free passes, but at least it seems like all arms of the company are starting to move in lockstep.

    • by ajs (35943)

      social networking with demands for ID scans if someone reports you for "fake" name...

      Nope, this is simply not true. First off, reports are mixed. There was a widely publicized report of someone who claimed he got accounts blocked be reporting them, but then no one I know of who has tried to repeat this has had any success.

      Further, the whole ID thing is blown out of proportion. IDs are one of several inputs that they'll accept, including links to competing social networking services and blogs where the name you're using (which must have a "first" and "last name") must have been in use prior

  • "It will also mean we can devote more resources to high impact productsâ"the ones that might improve the bottom lines of division VPs and thousands of large portfolio google shareholders."

    There. Fixed that for you.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) *

      Why do I get the impression you say that like it is a bad thing? The purpose of a public equity corporation is to provide a return to the investors first and foremost, lest the shareholders select a better use of their resources. Hint, your retirement is likely tied to corporate performance. If you object to that notion you could try only doing business with non-profits and co-ops but I doubt you will have much luck. Capitalism is sometimes messy but it delivers better than any other system so far devise

      • by Hartree (191324)

        "Democrat delenda est"

        Now there's a moderate position guaranteed to lead to bipartisanship.

        Uh... I've likely been a free market Republican longer than you've been alive, my rather doctrinaire friend.

    • I loved this line of specious PR bullshit:

      "Due to the rapidly decreasing demand for downloadable software in favor of web apps, we will discontinue Google Pack today."

      "Rapidly decreasing demand"! What utter nonsense.

  • by e**(i pi)-1 (462311) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @01:11PM (#37296860) Homepage Journal
    Shutdown like this remind that it is never good to rely on one service or company. From all the services closed, I liked Google desktop quite a bit on my linux box a couple of years ago. It could slow down the machine too much at some points and it had also not been clear to me how much and I fell back to rely on good old unix tools or beagle.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 03, 2011 @01:12PM (#37296864)

    These are 10 more prime examples of the "Software as a Service" concept failing us yet again.

    It makes no sense for any individual or company to use such "services". It's just too damn risky. The only safe and sensible approach is to insist on real software that you can run on your own systems.

    I have clients who still run software originally developed for DOS, back in the 1980s. Even if they don't have the source code, they can run it just fine on much newer hardware, and they don't have to worry about some other company going under or canceling the product and it then being unavailable to them.

    While it's relatively frequent to see normal software being used for decades after it was initially written, it's extremely rare to see any sort of "Software as a Service" lasting even more than a couple of years.

  • Google Pack is the only way I know of to install Google Chrome on a computer for every user, instead of only in the local user space. With its discontinuation, this will cause even more problems for installing Chrome in a corporate environment. Anyone knows another method?

  • WOW (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jello B. (950817) <jellobmello AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday September 03, 2011 @01:15PM (#37296882) Homepage
    Holy shit they're shutting down products I've never heard of and nobody uses. That's fuckin evil.
    • by esocid (946821)
      fastflip was very useful to me. Problem with some of their small projects is that they never publicize them, then wonder why no one's heard of it, or uses it.
    • I'm surprised that you haven't heard of Google Desktop. Back in XP days, it was the way to index all your local documents (since XP's built-in search was very crappy). I've certainly seen a lot of people use that, even if I didn't do so myself.

  • by phayes (202222)

    Too bad about fast flip, I found a number of interesting stories that I would never have seen otherwise.

    • I won't miss it. I hated the way it interfaced. I'd see something interesting on the google news page within fast flip. I'd click on the article in fast flip to read it. Instead, it opened up into fast flip. I then had to click on the article a second time to read it. Annoying. Granted, maybe if you used fast flip to browse through news, one might like it. I was annoyed at the way it functioned from the google news page, enough so that I removed the whole sidebar. There were other problems I had wi
      • by phayes (202222)

        Clicking on a fastflip opening FF in full page annoyed me too at first. I then discovered that the left/right keys flipped subjects quickly in FP mode. My habit was to read through the main Google news page opening interesting pages in new tabs, then open FF full page, scan quickly through the pages opening the interesting stuff in new tabs again.

        Using it this way I discovered a lot of news that never made the front page without having to open all the section/topic pages to scan them too. With the loss of F

    • Too bad about fast flip, I found a number of interesting stories that I would never have seen otherwise.

      Same here - I wonder how it chose which stories to show. I didn't like its interface, and being in Flash was just unnecessary, but an HTML5 equivalent would be handy.

  • Ouch, I used that service when it was still independent, although I mostly got "I'm too stupid to Google, can you answer this question for me?" kind of questions (for those who don't know Aardvark [wikipedia.org]). So they let Google buy them, and then shut them? That must suck. Or don't the founders care, since they just cashed out?

  • Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mkraft (200694) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @01:24PM (#37296936)

    Pretty much all of those services haven't been updated in ages or aren't even used. For example I used to use Google Desktop, but uninstalled it about 2 years ago because it was buggy, performance hogging and slowed down my machine.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @01:31PM (#37296964)

    Give me a break.

    Google is a business. They are out to make money. The fact that they have to axe a few products that you probably aren't using (never mind paying for, since a few of those things were freebies) does not mean that they've decided to follow the path of evil. It just means that they have good business sense.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I agree. Unfortunately, Google has also failed to deliver a cohesive roadmap. The Peoples Front for Data Liberation is fairly limited in its tool set. The lesson here is that you should not build sandcastles on Google's beaches.

  • It was, pretty much, a dead product after Windows 7 came out. Native searching in operating systems are much better now; it doesn't make any sense to have an auxiliary product that isn't as well integrated doing, essentially, the same thing.

    As for the others on the chopping block; did they ever have that many users?
    • Google Desktop was nice in the way it integrated all of your stuff into their main google search. Being able to look at relevant info from your email, network share and the Internet in one frame was quite helpful when trying to troubleshoot things, find a product manual, etc... Every so often the information I wanted turned out to be on the internal network, and much time (and bandwidth) was saved.

      • Ironically, Google Desktop is the only Desktop search that actually works in Linux (at least on GNOME)! Every thing else is either horribly broken, horribly slow, or lacks basic functionality. Sad to see this go.

    • by Spril (524430)

      It was, pretty much, a dead product after Windows 7 came out. Native searching in operating systems are much better now

      You're joking, right? The Windows 7 search functionality forces you to learn an arcane query language, is incredibly limited in functionality, ignores contents of non-Microsoft file formats like PDF, and regularly misses obvious results. Finally, its preview pane locks the file--so in the typical use case of searching for a file to edit, you CAN'T SAVE THE FILE until you close the search window.

      Microsoft seems to intentionally make file searching less functional and more arcane with every OS since Win 200

  • If you have a local app, you can run it pretty much forever. It might not get updated, and you might need to run it on old hardware/OS, but you will almost always have access to it.

    In the cloud, things can appear, disappear and change.

    If you depend on a program, or the specific behavior of a particular version, you lose.

  • What next? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @01:50PM (#37297048) Homepage

    One wonders what Google will kill next. Likely targets are products which lose money, don't provide opportunities for ad insertion, and don't collect monetizable information about users. Take a look at Google's list of products [google.com] (which, amusingly, doesn't contain "G+"). Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Picnik (Google's photo editor), Google Voice, Google Talk, and SketchUp may be next.

    Google Health has already been killed. Google has stopped digitizing old newspapers. Knol (Google's answer to Wikipedia) was never very successful. Those are likely targets, too.

    Google is no longer worried about Microsoft, which has failed to compete successfully in online services. Google is worried about Facebook and Apple. So all those Google products which targeted Microsoft's business model, but lost money, can be dumped.

    • Picnic will probably go - hasn't gained a whole lot of traction. Sketch will probably stay, if for no other reason than the pro edition has some following among folks who don't need to go whole hog and invest in Autocad (god rot their evil souls, but I digress). The file format is becoming a defacto standard. It's well integrated into Google Earth and Maps and allows them to crowdsource value into both of those products.

      The rest I've never used. I am annoyed that Google Powermeter left - that was a neat

    • by PhrstBrn (751463)

      Google Voice charges for calls outside the US. They could easily monetize Google Voice (cheap cellphone calls over WiFi), especially if they can offer more competitive rates than your cell phone provider. They could make a "Google Phone" which is a cheap IP phone for your home, powered by Google Voice and go after the IP phone market.

      Google Voice has a use for their Google Apps users, and I don't think they're going to piss off their current (paying) userbase. Google Talk is all integrated with the Googl

    • by Roogna (9643)

      Not sure how much money Google Voice makes, but I for one use it regularly to make international calls to family. It's got currently the cheapest prices for calling to the countries I call from any company I've seen, so I'm happy to pay the little I do for it. Granted, I could make the same calls for free if I could get those family members to turn on their computers... but they won't, so oh well.

    • Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Picnik (Google's photo editor), Google Voice, Google Talk, and SketchUp may be next.

      There's no way GTalk goes away. It's still the default chat app for all Android phones shipped in the last few years, among other things.

      Google Docs, I don't think so. It's plays a big part in Google's enterprise deployments - wherever a lot of users don't actually need the full power of MSOffice (which is surprisingly often), they use that to sell their Google Apps solution.

      Photo editor they'll likely discontinue as a separately named product, and integrate with G+. They still need something like that for

    • by pbhj (607776)

      Followed that link, http://www.google.com/intl/en/about/products/ [google.com], first thing listed after Google search is "Google Directory". So, like wow, they still have a directory?

      Nope, (paraphrasing) 'service closed use DMOZ'.

      They should employ someone to update some of their pages, also flatten this a little, there's plenty of whitespace there to use for a simple 'service closed' symbol.

  • Well I've never heard of, or used, any of them, so.......So what!
  • I recently set up a wiki on a server of mine to be used to take notes to replace Google Notebook because I was afraid it might shut down, and now I read this.

    Looks my hunch wasn't that wrong, after all.

  • in my previous line of work, I was a Maps JS dev. I always wondered who was using the Flash API... I guess now that answer is "no one."

  • To: Google (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AllenNg (954165) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @02:49PM (#37297428) Journal
    So, I suppose all that talk about our notebooks being safe and always available and respecting the time and work we'd invested in their use was just a lie? [blogspot.com] This, combined with Chrome's increasingly "We're Google--we can do whatever we want" functionality, is edging me closer to abandoning Google completely. I, years ago, was initially hesitant to begin using Google's products. Really, the tipping point was that there weren't many alternatives to the services that Google was providing. THAT IS NO LONGER TRUE, GOOGLE! You would do well to remember that!
    • The notebooks are still available, you just have to use Google Docs' interface.

    • by Mex (191941)

      "This, combined with Chrome's increasingly "We're Google--we can do whatever we want" functionality, is edging me closer to abandoning Google completely."

      Isn't it too late?

      Google is the de-facto search monopoly. If you don't exist in Google, you're irrelevant. Bing? Ha-ha.

      So what will you switch to, if you decide to abandon Google?

      Too late...

      • by Kuroji (990107)

        Oh, that's easy. I'll just google a new search engine to use! Yes, this plan has no flaws...

  • by mystik (38627) on Saturday September 03, 2011 @03:04PM (#37297538) Homepage Journal

    Google Pack: Due to the rapidly decreasing demand for downloadable software in favor of web apps, we will discontinue Google Pack today. People will still be able to access Googleâ(TM)s and our partnersâ(TM) software quickly and easily through direct links on the Google Pack website.

    Of all these services, this upsets me the most. No where was I able to find a nice installer/packge manager for windows that installed all these packages automatically w/o any cruft or addons, and kept it all up-to-date.

    Also, I seriously dispute their claim of "rapidly decreasing demand for downloadable software in favor of web apps". There are a whole host of benefits that downloadable software give, that web apps do not. (like, when the provider stops supporting the software, you still have access to it .....)

    • They're trying to make it happen by declaring to have already happened, of course. Sometimes this works ("the floppy is dead," ca. 1998) and sometimes it doesn't. I suspect (and hope!) that this time will fall into the "doesn't" category, but the truth is that if anyone's in a position to make it happen, Google is.

    • Google opened the source of their Windows package manager [google.com] (under the Apache license) a while back, so presumably you could use it to roll your own Google Pack if you wanted to. No idea how much work that would require, though.
      • by mystik (38627)

        I know that they OSSed it, but the value add is chasing all the current versions of software out there, and packaging them into silent installs.

        I was not aware of Ninite, but as numerous replies to this post point out, it looks like it's a pretty nice replacement, with many more options, including software that we frequently used in our system

    • by master811 (874700)

      Have you tried Ninite.com

      It's a pretty good replacement, if not better than Google Pack as it has a lot more apps, and full updates everything as well when you run it.

    • by Caetel (1057316)
      Ninite [ninite.com] is a similar product with a wider range of software, although they charge $10 per year for their automatic updater.
    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      Hmm, has anyone suggested you try ninite?

      Personally, I find that Steam [steampowered.com] carries just about all of the software I usually have to boot into Windows for.

  • This is still a widely-used API by Flash developers, and developers have been trying to get google to add Street View support to the Flash API for a couple years (ironic since google first implemented Street View using Flash) and they always refused. Now I understand why. Unfortunately the things you can do with Maps in Javascript is pretty limited compared to Flash (integration with multimedia content, for example), so I suspect many will seek out competitors. I'm honestly a bit shocked...how many develope

    • Not a JS zealot, although I've grown to strongly dislike Flash. But what exactly is lacking in the JS Maps? Multimedia integration? You can put whatever you want - including HTML5 or Flash videos - in a marker's info popup; I don't see what other integration would one want.

      • by petsounds (593538)

        Sure, you can put custom markers in the JS Maps. But popups that animate in sophisticated ways? Not so much. How about changing the perspective of the map, or customizing the yaw/pitch/roll of the camera to create fly-throughs? Nope, can't do that with the JS API at all. How about mapping the tiles onto a spherical 3D model a la Google Earth, or integrating a google map with a 3D environment to..for example provide altitude display? Can't really do that in JS yet.

        So...you see, there's many ways Flash can in

  • Google desktop widgets were an annoyance but the desktop search works very well in a small business environment where the files are stored on NAS or SAMBA servers.

    I really hope that Google could produce a Chrome Local Search Plugin that replicates the search functionality that was in Google Desktop.

    It would be a killer app if Google was also to include two way file merge functionality ( unison or two way rsync ) with removable media, remoter servers, other desktop computers and Google doc accounts

  • Their search results are progressively more useless with every passing day. How about they work on the product that got them big in the first place?

    Also, when I read the list of programs that are being cancelled, I went, "never heard of it" to all of them.

  • I love fast flip. :-(

  • No longer a place for invention and creativity - now its just about the money. And that spells lack of creativity, and eventually death when you run out of money to buy other companies for.

  • I rarely feel confident about using any google service, because google axes their new services so frequently.

    I wish google would put more thought into what is worth their while to create. And, once google decides to create something, I wish they would put their full effort into it. and really try to that project a success. Instead, google seem to just throw projects out onto the web, willy-nilly.

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