Google on Friday said it plans to discontinue two of its services, Google Health and Google PowerMeter.
Google Health will linger on through January 1, 2012. User data will be preserved for an additional year. The lights go out for Google PowerMeter on September 16, 2011.
"Both were based on the idea that with more and better information, people can make smarter choices, whether in regard to managing personal health and wellness, or saving money and conserving energy at home," said Google senior product manager Aaron Brown and green energy czar Bill Weihl in a blog post. "While they didn't scale as we had hoped, we believe they did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it’s traditionally been difficult."
The insufficiently popular services join other notable Google misfires, including Google Wave, Lively, and Google Video.
Uses who wish to save their data before it vanishes can go to the respective websites and download their information in supported formats. Google says that in next few weeks, it will be adding support in Google Health for the Direct Project protocol, an emerging open standard for health data exchange.
When it launched Google Health in 2008, Google emphasized how thoroughly it planned to protect personal health data, offering "complete control over your data" and promising not to sell or share users' data without explicit permission.
But privacy worries weren't what kept consumers away. "[Privacy] wasn't actually a significant concern we heard from our users, and it wasn't a significant factor in our decision to retire the service," said a Google spokesperson via email.
Google first expressed interest in health information in 2006, when then VP of engineering Adam Bosworth wrote about the need to organize medical information and make it accessible, a need that Google should have been well-positioned to meet given its similarly worded mission statement.
Google Health had the potential to become a lucrative market for Google: U.S. healthcare spending accounted for $2.47 trillion in 2009, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and health information is vital to clinical outcomes, research, and marketing. It could have been an advertising and data mining bonanza, if it had ever caught on.
Google's retreat leaves the field to Microsoft, which made its own foray into the health information business in 2007 with the acquisition of health search site Medstory and the launch of HealthVault.
Like Google Health, Google PowerMeter died of neglect: "Our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like, so we are retiring the service," explained Brown and Weihl.
The service was supposed to help people save energy by allowing them to monitor home energy usage more easily. But the third-party metering hardware was not simple to set-up and few utilities participated in the project.
But rather than mourning Google's deceased services, we should celebrate them, provided not too much money was wasted. Innovation is messy, and you don't get hits like Android without a few misses.
The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.
Google in the Enterprise SurveyThere's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.
Top IT Trends to Watch in Financial ServicesIT pros at banks, investment houses, insurance companies, and other financial services organizations are focused on a range of issues, from peer-to-peer lending to cybersecurity to performance, agility, and compliance. It all matters.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of October 9, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."