Google Dumps Three More Products

On Friday of last week, Google announced that it would be discontinuing three more of its products, and consolidating some of its blogs. The move is part of the housecleaning that founder Larry Page has been conducting ever since he assumed the reins of CEO about a year ago.

For the most part, the products Google is ditching either duplicate the functionality of more popular services, or haven’t become as popular as the search company hoped they would. Google revealed the list in a post on its official blog, and also explained why it was deleting each one. Max Ibel, the Google Director of Engineering who authored the post, noted that the company has “made changes to around 50 products, features and services – donating, merging, and shutting things down” to better focus on the products used by the most people.

Four-year-old Google Apps for Teams will be eliminated. The company created the service to let those with a verified business or school email address collaborate in Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Talk – in short, to use non-email-based Google applications without having to get a Google account. Apparently, the company didn’t get as many takers as they’d expected.

That’s not too surprising. It’s very easy to get a Google account. My guess is that schools and businesses became comfortable with employees (and students) accessing that account for work purposes, deciding it wasn’t a security risk. Once you can do that, there’s no point in verifying a business or school email address to use the service. “Beginning September 4, 2012, we’ll start converting existing Google Apps for Teams accounts into personal Google Accounts, and shutting down Google Apps for Teams.” If you’re using a different edition of Google Apps, you won’t be affected by this change.

Three-year-old Google Listen will also hit the chopping block. The service gave users a way to find and listen to podcasts. But Google basically duplicated and improved that functionality when it came out with Google Play. If you’ve already installed Google Listen, you’ll still be able to access the app, but you won’t be able to search for podcasts with it after November 1, as that feature will no longer function. “You can access your podcast subscriptions in Google Reader in the ‘Listen Subscriptions’ folder and download them from the Import/Export tab,” Ibel helpfully explains.

The third product Google is sweeping out in this phase of its “spring cleaning” is Google Video for Business. If it doesn’t ring any bells, you probably never used Google Apps for Business or Google Apps for Education. The product allowed users of those services to communicate internally with video.

This isn’t the kind of product that Google can just stop offering completely, because many users still access it; it’s apparently a good service for things like training videos. Therefore, in the fall, Google will move the videos it’s hosting on Google Videos for Business over to its Google Drive service. Generously, the search giant will store all of the migrated videos for free, and will not count them against users’ Google Drive storage quota.

Well, that covers all the products Google said it would cut in this sweep; what about the blogs? Is Google going isolationist on us, trying to cut down on its communication? No, it’s trying to rationalize things. The search giant is apparently also a blog giant, and that’s probably giving it a giant headache, since all those blogs aren’t just static; someone needs to write posts to keep them going. In Google’s case, that adds up to a lot of someones, and probably a lot of hours – resources that can be better utilized elsewhere.

Ibel states in Google’s official blog that the company “maintains 150+ blogs and other communications channels about our products and services,” and I believe him. Focusing just on the English language, Google lists 90 different blogs, many of which seem redundant. It’s going to take the search giant a while to sort through all of these and decide which ones to keep and which ones to close, but the ones that are redundant or updated infrequently will begin quietly disappearing. “This doesn’t mean that we’ll be sharing any less information – we’ll just be posting our updates on our more popular channels,” Ibel notes. 

As I stated earlier, this is hardly the first time Page has decided to get rid of under-performing or redundant products at Google, and it won’t be the last. PC Magazine listed just a few of the products and services – many of them from Google Labs – that he’s chosen to eliminate in the past year. They include Aardvark and Flip, Google Buzz, Google Labs itself, Boutiques.com, Gears, Wave, Knol, and more.

The process hasn’t always been smooth; in fact, it’s made some users angry or desperate – or perhaps both. Just last month, Google announced that it was getting rid of iGoogle, a customizable web portal. The move incited professionals in the industry and posters on Google’s product forums to beg the company to keep it. Why? “Because it’s so darn useful,” according to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. Here’s hoping Google can avoid similar missteps in the future.

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