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Tiptoeing Past the Google Graveyard

These are the spirits of innovation past: 11 products and services that Google axed.

Not everything Google touches turns to gold. Google's penchant for experimentation in designing online services and acquisitions over the past several years has created some monsters—think: Google Wave, Google X, and, most recently, Google Buzz—that the company has judiciously sent to the graveyard. Here are the 11 most infamous product kills.

Aardvark

This service, similar to Quora, allows users ask questions and get quick answers from friends (and friends of friends). Google executives decided to pull the Aardvark team in order to focus on Google+.  "Google never really did anything interesting with Aardvark, despite the big-time potential," wrote TechCrunch when word spread that the service was getting cut.
 
Born: Acquired by Google in February 2010 for $50 million.
Died: September 2011


Google Wave

Google Wave was the company's first attempt at "real-time communication" that let users see what their friends were typing. But it was confusing and clunky, and ultimately did not catch on. Upon announcing Wave's demise, the company noted that "Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked...We don't plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects."

Born: May 2009
Died: August 2010


Google Pack 

Google Pack made it easy to download and install a packages of software for your computer, from Skype, to Real Player, to Adobe. But with the shift to "the cloud," Google recognized that the idea of ‘downloading' may soon be obsolete. "Due to the rapidly decreasing demand for downloadable software in favor of web apps, we will discontinue Google Pack today," wrote Google on its blog.

Born: December 2005
Died: September 2011


Notebook

Like its name implies, Notebook was a service that let users jot down ideas, links, and bits of text, which was especially helpful for doing research. It's unclear why the company discontinued the service, but services like Google Documents quickly overlapped with Notebook's intended purpose. Lest you need another service for note-taking, check out its competitors Helipad and Mojonote.

Born: May 2006
Died: January 2009
 

Image Labeler

Devised originally by the "MacArthur Genius" grant winner Luis von Ahn, Google Image Labler was technically a 'game' in which users were encouraged to help Google's search algorithm by labeling images. In the game, two users from around the world were randomly paired up, and were tasked with labeling an image, or passing. The company did not give a reason for discontinuing the product.
 
Born: August 2006
Died: September 2011
 

Jaiku

Jaiku is a micro-blogging service based in Helsinki, Finland. It's pretty much exactly like Twitter, and was even gaining traction in 2007 when Google acquired it. But in 2009, Google decided to halt development of the product, which basically meant that the service would exist online, but there would be no new investment put into its development. Two years later, Google announced it would shutter Jaiku permanently come January 2012. At that time, the service will no longer available to users, effectively killing Jaiku twice.
 
Born: Acquired by Google in October 2010
Died: January 2012
 

Google Buzz 

After disposing of Jaiku in 2009, Google focused its social networking on its own service, Buzz, which quickly became one of the most talked-about Google services to date, partly because of scrutiny over its incredibly weak privacy settings that resulted in a 2010 lawsuit. It's fair to say that Buzz was one of Google's biggest disasters, both because of its legal issues, as well as tepid response from media. Ryan Pall, writing for Ars Technica, said the service "lacks the requisite killer feature or innovative twist that it will need in order to truly keep people engaged."
 
Born: February 2010
Died: October 2011
 

Google Labs

"A collective gasp has gone up around the Internet," noted GigaOm when Google announced it was shutting down Labs, Google's most creative endeavor which produced a number of quirky products, like Correlate and Image Swirl. Upon shutting down, the company issued a statement (mostly in corporate-speak) that explained that Labs was shutting down in order to "prioritize our product efforts." Translation: It wasn't making the company money.
 
Born: July 2006
Died: September 2011
 

Google Base 

Google's attempt at a database (hence, "Base") allowed users to upload a range of content, from text to images to Excel files. Technically, Google Base was never officially killed, but rather rolled up into Google's shopping API, Google Merchant Center, which allows users upload product data to Google.

Born: November 2005
Died: October 2010

GOOG 411 

"People who knew about GOOG-411 adored it," wrote The New York Times upon the service's passing. "But Google is about to turn it off forever." The free, voice-activated directory-assistance service was a popular hit with Google users, but Google decided to pull the plug in order to focus on monetizing its voice-recognition software. Other products, like Bing 411, still offer the same service.
 
Born: April 2007
Died: October 2010

Google X

Perhaps Google's most infamous "product kill," Google X lasted for just one day, on March 15, 2005. Google X featured a few icons below the search bar, which looked a lot like Apple's dock user interface in its Mac OS X operating system. In fact, it probably looked too much like it: scared off by potential copyright violations, Google lawyers pulled the plug.
 
Born: March 2005
Died: March 2005

 

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Last updated: Oct 26, 2011




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