Google: a graveyard of home projects

Based on materials from The Verge

Google: a graveyard of home projects

Over the past ten years, Google has canceled and closed dozens of projects. Among them are Wave (launched in September 2009 – closed in August 2010), then Buzz (launched in August 2010 – closed in October 2011). There was also a Wikipedia clone called Knol (launched August 2008 – closed March 2012), an imitation of Groupon called Google Offers (launched May 2011 – closed March 2014), and, of course, the beloved Google RSS client. Reader (launched back in October 2005 and closed in March 2013). And these are only fairly large projects that are easy to remember. In total, the special tracker Killed By Google has 194 separate canceled projects from 2006 to the present. Moreover, its creators note that they could forget a couple or three.

All this is happening according to a well-established scenario. Google is announcing something interesting at the Google I / O conference with a vague release date, which still happens six months or a year later. Then several more years pass before the company decides that supporting the project is not worth the effort. These cycles are pretty obvious to anyone following a company closely, as they are to the people within the company. Google loves fresh ideas and doesn't like to close projects before they go public. For most of the past decade, the company has been divided into several small teams that have access to more resources as they grow, so it wasn't too expensive to do a project for a couple of years just to get started. The manual gave some running room to see if the project would take off or not, but nothing more. Anyone in the startup world will tell you that most projects will never take off.

The result of this approach was a kind of startup anarchy within one of the largest companies in the world. And it bore fruit. The company could place many bets and never spent too much on them, so those that did not play did not bring it much loss. Even when the company found itself on the sidelines of industry trends (such as social media or smart TVs), it rarely ended in disasters of the scale Windows Phone or attempts Facebook to make devices. It's a kind of 'better to fail' mantra that has been repeated more often at Google than at any other large company.

Despite many setbacks, Google has been able to pull a number of interesting ideas out of this seething cauldron. Tiny artificial intelligence cameras and touch-operated jeans have failed to become disruptive technologies. But Google used them not only in prototypes, but also in real products.

Google Cardboard hasn't been able to achieve long-term success, but has been instrumental in keeping the technology going. Devices of the Nexus line could not compete with products Apple, but seriously pushed the boundaries of what a device with an OS could be Android. These were worthwhile projects, but they only became possible because Google was willing to fail.

But there is also a downside to such an easy attitude towards losing. You fail even when you want to succeed. Google Graveyard is not just a collection of benign lab endeavors. Among them there are some really ambitious projects that were launched, but did not succeed, partly for the reason that the company was ready to easily abandon them. Google had a chance to create its own messenger, but the company ruined this endeavor, because it chose from a dozen (count for yourself!) Messaging systems, but it never gave preference to any of them. Daydream VR could have become a real rival for Oculus, but after several years of false starts, the name Google alone was not enough for manufacturers Android – devices to use it, and developers believed in its promise.

Other closed projects were strategically priced. The closure of Google Reader was a funeral bell for RSS as the dominant technology, cementing Facebook News Feed as the dominant media for information dissemination. The News Feed model looks daunting in recent years, but competing products like News Plus from Apple or Facebook News have failed to gain attention. And it would be very important for Google to keep Reader as an option, which would require only paltry server costs, but cannot be selected anymore.

Google is still competing in the market for smart home devices, live streaming and augmented reality, and it certainly has a whole bunch of interesting ideas to develop. But each new launch raises an awkward question: Is this really interesting for Google? Or is it just another product of hers slowly creeping into the company's personal cemetery?

So there is reason to wonder if Google is planning to change its approach to product launches. Since the company is suffering under the pressure of political circumstances, it is time to focus and consolidate. Especially since founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have faded into the background, which gives those who closely follow Google reason to expect a reduction in entropy and more attention to what the company actually makes money from. This may not be the case. For enthusiasts, it would be even better – for the cemetery to keep filling, just not as intensely, leaving more interesting ideas alive.

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