Google's Graveyard: Dead Products Of 2011

As CEO Larry Page puts more wood behind fewer arrows, products continue to disappear.
As we predicted in January, Google has finally discontinued Knol, the company's attempt to recreate Wikipedia in its own ad-supported image.

What we didn't foresee was just how many product funerals would be held in 2011: More than three dozen if you count as equals full-fledged products, add-on features, orphaned acquisitions, ahead-of-their-time initiatives, and APIs.

It was a brutal year to be a struggling Google service. CEO Larry Page made good on his promise to put more wood behind fewer arrows.

On Tuesday, November 22, it was Google SVP of operations Urs Holzle who announced the most recent round of death warrants. In addition to Knol, Google is discontinuing Google Bookmarks Lists, Google Friend Connect, Google Gears, Google Search Timeline, Google Wave, and its energy program known as Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE Some of these products were previously marked for termination, most notably Google Wave and Google Gears. Google cancelled Wave development in August 2010, but has kept the once ballyhooed service around for the sake of partners and related projects that relied on the technology. Wave will actually survive the year, but will become read-only in January, 2012, and go offline in April, 2012.

Google Gears was introduced in May 2007 to allow Web apps to run offline, but about two years ago it became clear HTML5 would become the preferred offline Web technology. Notice of discontinuation came in March.

This latest round of product terminations is the most significant since June, when Google revealed plans to close Google Health and Google PowerMeter. Both were based on the notion 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."

[ What killed Google Health? Find out in Google Health, PowerMeter Cut From Life Support. ]

What Google discovered is that organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible sometimes requires the cooperation of stakeholders in other industries and a truly compelling value proposition for consumers.

Echoes of that lesson are evident in the series of additional product purges that continued through the summer and into the fall.

In July, Google Labs got the axe, eliminating dozens of interesting experiments and sending a handful of services selected for survival to other Web sites or Google product groups.

Around this time, Google also abandoned the Google Toolbar for Firefox, after unceremoniously discontinuing several APIs the previous month, including APIs for Code Search, Diacritize, Feedburner, Finance, PowerMeter, Sidewiki, and Wave. In addition, the company discontinued its 13-year-old Google Friends newsletter and Google Directory in July.

Then in August, Google decided to shut down Slide, a social software company acquired for $228 million in August, 2010.

September brought a series of further closures. Google said goodbye to Aardvark, Desktop, Fast Flip, Maps API for Flash, Google Pack, Google Web Security, Image Labeler, Notebook, Sidewiki, and Subscribed Links.

Most notable in this round is Google's abandonment of traditional software, the kind that users download and install on their computers. It was only four years ago that Google complained that Microsoft was using its control of Windows to hinder the functioning of Google's Desktop search application. Nowadays, the desktop doesn't appear to be particularly desirable real estate.

October was another cruel month for Google products. Google silenced Buzz, its unsuccessful precursor to Google+, and eliminated iGoogle's social features, which became redundant following the arrival of Google+. Google Code Search, Jaiku, and the company's University Research Program for Google Search also were cast aside.

With a little over a month to go before 2012 arrives, we may yet see another casualty or two. But even if Page is satisfied with the size and shape of Google's product portfolio for the time being, it's clear that while Google may indulge employees with generous perks, the company has become far less tolerant of products that fail to perform.