Following the news that Google+ is closing its doors after the disclosure of a security flaw that exposed the private data of nearly half a million users, let's take a stroll down memory mews to revisit six other times Google ended products or services, rightly or wrongly, for good or for ill…
A product of Google's then famous policy of allowing employees to spend 20 percent of their work time on personal products, Orkut took the name of its Turkish software engineer creator Orkut Büyükkökten. Released in 2004, Orkut was envisaged as a social media platform for connecting with friends old and new alike.
By 2008 the site had become enormously popular in Brazil, India and the Philippines, but faced legal and security issues. Google ended the service in 2014, citing the rapid growth of Facebook, YouTube, Blogger and – try not to giggle – Google+. YouTube and Blogger are also Google products, but their use by way of justification seems a little strange given that they're not social networks first and foremost. Still, Orkut achieved what Google+ arguably never did – obtain an active and engaged user base.
Picasa was a free and powerful photo editing and managing app with online backup and sharing features in the nebulous form of Picasa Web Albums. Acquired from Lifescape in 2004 and shut down in 2016, Picasa fell on its proverbial sword as Google channeled its resources into its online photo-storage and sharing service Google Photos.
The latter undoubtedly trumped Picasa Web Albums so far as features and usability go, but in the desktop Picasa app, users lost a fast and powerful way to manage and edit their photography, regardless of how and where they keep their images.
AutoStitch is a powerful photo-stitching technology developed at the University of British Colombia. It was licensed by a small company called Cloudburst Research for the development of mobile apps for iOS and Android. These apps let you shoot striking stitched photos in-app which, unlike the Panoramas feature of iOS, let you join images vertically as well as horizontally to create vast 2D panoramas.
Unfortunately the apps went missing from mobile app stores in 2015, much to the frustration of mobile photographers who had come to rely on them. The most recent tweet by Cloudburst Research, dating back to 2015, revealed that the company had been acquired by Google. Alas, to this day, no mobile photo-stitching apps match the power and performance of the lost and lamented AutoStitch. RIP.
4. Google Video
Google's video-hosting service, Google Video, was launched in 2005, the year before Google acquired YouTube, which is also a video-hosting service. It's not unusual for tech giants to acquire competing services, either to fold their features into their own products or to capitalize on a stronger brand. Google ultimately plumped for the second option, ending video uploads in 2009 and closing the service entirely in 2012. A relative no-brainer so far as this list is concerned.
5. Inbox by Gmail
It was only last month that our own Loz Blain opined the closure of Inbox, Google's powerful mobile and web email app that saw full public release in 2015. Inbox featured a host of smart features, from bundling together emails on similar topics to pulling in relevant live data on flight times and important courier deliveries, to name but two. Though its loss will be lamented by fans, Google's stated mission to focus on a single email product makes sense, if Google can deliver the goods to make Gmail as smart a service as Inbox was.
6. Google Reader
In Google Reader, Google created the gold-standard in feed readers, which pull in new content from blogs and news sites by aggregating their RSS and Atom feeds. Compared to other web-based readers, Google's product was lightning fast, beautifully minimal in design, and featured powerful keyboard shortcuts for quickly navigating feeds and performing actions, like marking a feed as read.
Google closed the service in 2013, pleading declining use. But some, including Instapaper creator Marco Arment, have speculated that Google ended the service due to a conflict of interests with Google+, where the company wanted to funnel users and the sharing of information. There's even speculation that now Google+ has come to an end, Google Reader could be resurrected. Here's hoping: Google Reader is a product the company absolutely nailed.
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