Google Graveyard: Products Killed by Google

01
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Google Graveyard

Graveyard tombstone image R.I.P.
Courtesy Getty Images

 Not every Google product is made of gold. Google encourages experimentation, and that leads to both success and failure. As the decade progressed and the economy worsened, Google also stopped being quite as experimental with products that didn't have any money making potential. Here's a list of a few of those not so golden products.

02
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Google Video

Google Video Player
2005-2009.

Google Video, when it was originally introduced, was a competitor to YouTube that let you upload videos and either offer them for free or charge users to view them. If you wanted to view a video you purchased, you had to download the Google Video Player to see it.

The service was not a big hit, Google ended up buying YouTube, and they eventually shut off the ability to charge for videos. Google Video began to be converted into a search engine for video files rather than a place to distribute them. Anyone who had ever purchased a video from Google Video was offered a refund.

In 2011, Google further dismantled Google Video and even videos that had been previously uploaded to the service and available for free viewing were removed. Users were given advance notice in order to transfer the videos to YouTube or download the uploaded file. Google Video officially ceased to exist as anything other than a search engine.

Originally YouTube was a free model, and Google Video allowed content producers to set a price. Now rentals have come to YouTube.

03
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Helpouts by Google

HelpoutsbyGoogle.png
Screen Capture

 Helpouts was a framework Google created for paid (and unpaid) Google Hangout consultations. Sellers could list their areas of expertise (yoga, carpentry, whatever) and buyers could search for general topics or specific questions. The service wasn't popular enough to justify its existence, and Google pulled the plug in early 2015. 

04
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SearchMash

SearchMash
2006-2008.

SearchMash was a sandbox for Google search experiments. It began 2006, and Google used it to test experimental interfaces and search experiences. It wasn't completely clear why the service was discontinued, but it quietly ended in 2008 at about the same time Google introduced SearchWiki into the main search engine.

The only message users received when trying to visit the old website was that SearchMash has "gone the way of the dinosaurs."

05
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Google Reader

reader.jpg
Screen capture by Marziah Karch

This one hurt. 

Google Reader was a feed reader. It allowed you to subscribe to RSS and Atom feeds. You could manage feeds, label them, and search through them. It worked better than competing products in many ways, but the interests of the Web seem to be moving a bit beyond the feed model and more towards just plain social sharing. Google pulled the plug on the product. 

For an alternative reader, you may try Feedly

06
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Dodgeball

Dodgeball
2005-2009.

In 2005, Google purchased the social networking phone application, Dodgeball. It let you find friends of friends, find friends within a 10 block radius, gets alerts when "crushes" were nearby, and locate restaurants.

While Dodgeball.com was innovative for the time, Google didn't seem to dedicate a lot of resources toward expanding coverage areas or features. It was only available in select cities while competing Twitter grew in popularity and was available everywhere.

The original Dodgeball.com founders left the company in 2007, and in 2009 Google announced that they were shutting the service down. After leaving Google, Dodgeball founder Dennis Crowley went on to create Foursquare, a mobile phone social networking service that combines the mobile social networking elements of Dodgeball with gaming.

07
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Google Deskbar

Google Deskbar

Google Deskbar was a Windows application that let you launch a Google search directly from your desktop taskbar. The software was likely discontinued because Google Desktop does that and more. Once Chrome came out, there wasn't any point. These days most users probably just have their browsers open and Google isn't more than a click away.

08
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Google Answers

Google Answers
2001-2006.

Google Answers was an interesting service. The idea was to pay someone else to find the answer to a question. You named the price you were willing to pay, and "researchers" found the answer for the specified price. Once a question had been answered, both the question and answer were posted on Google Answers.

Yahoo! Answers are free, and the Google Answers paid approach never took off. Google ended the ability to ask questions in 2006 but kept the answers online. You can still browse through them at answers.google.com.

09
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Google Browser Sync

Google Browser Sync
2008 RIP.

Google Browser Sync was a Firefox extension that let you sync all your bookmarks, passwords, and settings between multiple browsers on different computers. That way you could find the same bookmarks on your home computer as you did your office laptop. It would even save the same open tabs, so using a new computer would be just like using your last computer.

Google Browser Sync was never updated for Firefox 3, and support for Firefox 2 officially ended in 2008. Google decided to focus on other extensions, like Google Gears and Google Toolbar. Later they ended support for Google Toolbar and redirected their focus to Chrome.

10
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Google X

Google X
2005.

Google X was an extremely short-lived Google Labs project. It appeared in Google Labs and was taken down almost immediately after, with no comments from Google.

Google X made the Google search engine resemble the Mac OS X dock interface. When you moused over the different Google tools, the picture grew. The bottom text even said, "Roses are red. Violets are blue. OS X rocks. Homage to you." Judging from the quick and silent removal of the service, Apple may not have been flattered by this imitation. 

The Other Google X

Google X is also the name of a skunkworks product lab under Google's parent company Alphabet that develops innovated products like the self-driving car.  

11
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Picasa Hello

Hello
2008 RIP.

Hello was an instant messaging service from the team behind Picasa. It let you send pictures back when that was difficult to do by IM. Although the idea was clever, there's really not much of a demand for instant messaging solely for the purpose of sharing photos. Google already offered a separate IM client, and most users would probably prefer to either email their photos or post them to a website where they can be selectively shared.

Google officially pulled the plug on Hello in May of 2008. Even if you still have the program installed, it will no longer work.

12
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Google Lively

Google Lively
Summer 2008 - Winter 2008.

From the beginning, Lively seemed like an odd fit for Google. This service provided 3D chat rooms with cartoon avatars and user generated content. It was never a big hit, nor was it clear how they'd ever make money from it. Add the cost of maintaining servers and engineering support, and it was clear it had to go. Lively was introduced in the summer of 2008 and was already dead by the end of the year.

13
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Google Page Creator

Google Page Creator
2006-2008.

Google Page Creator was a Web-based tool for creating personal Web pages. It was fairly easy to use, and the users seemed to like it. However, after Google purchased the wiki tool JotSpot, they were faced with two similar applications and a growing need to focus on profitability and Internet security.

JotSpot became the more business-minded Google Sites and was included in Google Apps. That made Google Page Creator the more obvious choice for the ax. Google closed Page Creator for new accounts in August of 2008 and announced their plans to migrate existing accounts to Google Sites.

14
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Google Catalogs

Google Catalog Search
2001-2009 2011-?.

Google Catalog Search was an interesting idea that outlived its usefulness. Google began scanning print catalogs in 2001 and making them available for search. The technology eventually leads to Google Book Search.

By 2009, consumers were used to the idea of searching and purchasing products online. It seemed a bit odd to search through print catalogs on the Web. In January of 2009, Google ended Catalog Search

But, wait! Google Catalog was actually brought back to life in August of 2011 with Google Catalogs. Rather than scanning in catalogs for a comparison search, Google Catalogs is an interactive all-digital catalog publishing platform.

15
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Google Shared Stuff

Google Shared Stuff
2007-2009.

Google Shared Stuff was an experimental social sharing tool introduced in September of 2007. It let you bookmark pages you liked and share those bookmarks with other users. It saved a bookmark along with an automatically generated page summary and a graphic from the page as a visual cue.

You could also email links or submit your pick to other social bookmarking and social news sites at the same time, including Digg, del.icio.us, and Facebook.

The service wasn't a bad idea, but there were already quite a few similar services already established in the marketplace when it was introduced. It was also puzzling why Shared Stuff didn't tie in with Google Bookmarks, an existing feature in Google Toolbar.

Whatever the reason for its demise, Google Shared Stuff died on March 30th, 2009, and Google Toolbar eventually followed.

16
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Google Wave

Google Wave
2009-2010.

Google Wave was an innovative new platform that Google introduced at their I/O developer conference in 2009 It got a standing ovation from the attendees. The service was killed just over a year later in August of 2010.

Although Google had hoped to revolutionize email and group collaboration with the tool, most users didn't know what they should do with it and seldom did more than simply register an account. It didn't help that Google introduced the tool with a brand new vocabulary, such as "blips" and "wavelets." It also required users to register a new email-like address "your-user-name@googlewave.com" instead of using existing Gmail accounts, and it reproduced a lot of the types of tools that existed elsewhere.

Rather than continue development on Google Wave, Google decided to use portions in existing tools and leave other portions available for possible development by the open source community.

17
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Google Nexus One

Nexus One
January 2010 - July 2010. Photo by Marziah Karch

The Nexus One phone was introduced in January of 2010 with a lot of fanfare. Google intended to change the phone industry. It used Google's Android OS and the latest HTC hardware, including a nice touch screen and a five-megapixel camera with flash. This is actually the model I still use for my personal phone.

What went wrong? The sales model. Google sold the phone exclusively from their website in the US, which meant you could not see the phone in person before purchasing it unless you knew a friend who had one. In addition, the plans were limited to encourage customers to purchase the phone at $530 and then purchase separate data service rather than using the typical American model of purchasing a subsidized phone that comes with a two-year contract.There were also problems with customer support, as Google initially wanted to handle it through email and forums instead of providing a customer support phone line.

The Nexus One was not a huge sales success, and by the time Google could have transitioned from Web sales to traditional retail sales, there were already faster and better Android phones on the market. Google claimed they accomplished their goals with the Nexus One and therefore didn't need to introduce a Nexus Two. Whether that's spin to cover a flop or an honest assessment of their goals, Google ended Web sales of the phone in July of 2010. They also may have spoken too soon about not needing a Nexus Two. Their next Nexus phone, the Nexus S, ditched the Web sales model. 

Eventually, of course, Google changed their strategy and brought back the Nexus phone and a Web sales model. 

18
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Goog 411

Goog 411
2007-2010.

GOOG-411 was an innovative phone directory service launched in 2007. You could call 1-800-GOOG-411 from US and Canadian phones to get automated business directory service. You could also ask the service to send you a map or text message or connect you to the business' phone number.

Ah, but there was a catch. The service was provided for free with no ads or any other revenue source because Google only wanted callers for their phonemes. The service was designed as a way to anonymously collect vocal samples from a large sample of North American callers in order to better train their speech recognition tools. By 2010, Google had developed sophisticated speech recognition tools that could transcribe YouTube videos, recognize voice commands on phones, and transcribe Google Voice calls. The money-losing directory service was no longer necessary.

In October 2010 Google announced that the service would end in November 2010.

19
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Google Health

Google Health
2008-2011.

Google Health was launched in 2008 when Google joined with the Cleveland Clinic to allow patients to transfer their data into Google's electronic health information storage service. This wasn't a move without controversy, as critics were quick to point out that Google was not subject to HIPPA regulations. Google insisted that their existing privacy regulations were sufficient, but the average American couldn't think of why they'd need such a thing. It didn't help that there were only limited providers who would automatically transfer health info into the service.

Google added the ability to track and graph just about anything - weight, blood pressure, sleep, but it wasn't enough. The service was just not catching on, and Google decided to nix it in 2011. The service will formally end in 2012. Users will still have until 2013 to export their data to spreadsheets or other services, like Microsoft HealthVault. You could also just print it out if you decided to go back to old school or if you discovered an issue you wanted to discuss with your doctor.

For those that never used Google Health, having a place to track the health records of yourself and your family members is actually very useful. Tracking your own symptoms enables you to better inform your care provider and get a more accurate diagnosis. Weight and exercise trackers allow you to take charge of your own health without ads for diet products to get between you and your goals. There's also the philosophical argument that your health data should remain with you, and not in some hidden file in your doctor's office.

No matter the arguments for the service, there just weren't enough users, and the world remained unchanged. Combine the lack of profits, the lack of adoption, and the privacy concerns, and Google Health was doomed.

20
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Google PowerMeter

Google PowerMeter
2010-2011.

Google PowerMeter was a Google.org effort to help along the smart grid. PowerMeter would have allowed users to track their energy usage from their computer and compete with neighbors for energy savings anonymously. The idea was fabulous, but it did not encourage a faster roll-out of smart grids, and Google ultimately decided their efforts were better spent on other projects. The project officially ended on September 16, 2011.

Google later acquired Nest, a company that makes a smart power meter. So it wasn't that Google stopped being interested in the idea. The company just took a different approach to get there. PowerMeter was just too soon. 

21
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IGoogle

iGoogle Themes
Screen Capture

 IGoogle used to give you a custom portal to launch your browser and display interactive gadgets. 

Why kill it?

Google's answer, "We originally launched iGoogle in 2005 before anyone could fully imagine the ways that today's web and mobile apps would put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips. With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding down iGoogle on November 1, 2013, giving you a full 16 months to adjust or easily export your iGoogle data."

You can get the gadget experience from apps and widgets on your Android devices, and you can quickly get to your Web apps through the Chrome browser (and, of course, Chromebooks.) 

22
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Postini

Postini Logo
Postini Logo. Postini Logo

 Postini was a standalone cloud-based product that provided email security, spam filtering, instant messaging security, and email archiving services. If those sound like features that should be included in Gmail or a business version of Gmail, you are correct. In 2007, Google acquired Postini for $625 million in cash, and in May of 2015, Google ended the service as a separately branded product. All existing customers were directed to transition to Google for Work (previously Google Apps for Business and Google Apps). The Postini purchase was always intended as a way to beef up the Google for Work offerings, so the real surprise may not be that Google ended the service so much as it is that it took Google until 2015 to finally kill it as a separate service and transition all users to the Google for Work platform. 

Google rolled Postini's archiving service into a product called Google Vault Archiving, now known as just Google Vault. It is used for business compliance with laws about email retention and discovery. ("Discovery" is business-speak for lawsuits.) During litigation, the suing party can sometimes demand to see relevant electronic documents and records of email and other conversations. Google Apps Vault is intended to make it easier to find the relevant data, which means there's less time (and therefore money) spent gathering the information for the litigation.           

23
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Google Gears

Enabling Google Gears on Google Calendar
Enabling Google Gears on Google Calendar. Screen Capture

Google Gears was a Web browser extension that allowed offline access to some online applications by downloading data to your hard drive. Google Gears was not restricted to making online tools work offline. It also allowed for enhanced online functionality. 

Google Docs:

Google Gears let you use Google Docs (now Google Drive) while offline, although it was fairly limited in how you can use them. You could view presentations, documents, and spreadsheets offline, but you could only edit documents, and you couldn't create new items. 

This is still enough to allow you to give a presentation at a venue without a computer connection or view a spreadsheet at a hotel.

Gmail:

Google Gears could be used by Gmail to eliminate the need for a desktop email program. If you enabled offline access to Gmail, it operated in three modes: online, offline, and flaky connection. Flaky connection mode is for when you have an unreliable Internet connection that might suddenly cut out.

Gmail syncs messages so that when you are offline you can still read, compose, and press the send button. The actual message delivery will occur after you are online again.

Google Calendar:

Google Gears let you read your calendar offline, but it did not let you edit items or make new entries.  

Third Party Applications That Used Google Gears:

Third party Web apps that used Google Gears included:

24
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Yet More Google Casualties

Graveyard tombstone image R.I.P.
Courtesy Getty Images

Other projects killed by Google include: