Google’s announced they’re closing or ceasing development of a variety of products as part of an already continuing move to keep efforts focused on other products with greater usage. These include an end to video uploads to Google Video, closure of Google Catalog Search, Google Notebook, Dodgeball, the microblogging service Jaiku and the Google Mashup Editor.
Google’s written officially about the closures and changes in these posts:
- Turning Down Uploads at Google Video
- Farewell, Google Catalog Search
- Stopping development on Google Notebook
- Changes for Jaiku and Farewell to Dodgeball and Mashup Editor
Ending uploads to Google Video makes sense and was long in the cards. Back in 2007, as part of the Google Universal Search rollout, Google Video was transformed more into a meta video search service than a site for hosting videos. Video hosting has still been allowed since then, but Google-owned YouTube was clearly the leading property for this.
Google’s checking for me on whether this means YouTube will lift limits to allow for longer uploads. Generally, clips on YouTube have been only allowed if they are 10 minutes or less. Google Video had no such limits. Existing video content on Google Video will not be removed. The Google Video site has a FAQ about the changes. Picasa is another Google property that allows video hosting, added last October, but it also has a file size limit. Uploads to Google Video will end at some point in the next few months.
Google Catalogs is a service that long ago was effectively abandoned by Google, and it’s good to see them finally put a nail in its coffin. Google told me that Catalogs started as a useful way to experiment with its optical character recognition technology. These days, its OCR technology is more focused on Google Books.
Google Notebook closes, though those with existing accounts can continue to save material. New accounts won’t be allowed, however — nor will the service be further developed, and the Google Notebook Extension for browsers will no longer work. Google told me it makes more sense to close this when it offers other services that allow for notetaking, such as Google SearchWiki, Google Docs and Google Bookmarks.
Dodgeball, well, I never used it. The service was designed to allow people to easily connect with others near them via their cell phones. Google acquired Dodgeball with some fanfare in May 2005. Last April, the Dodgeball founders left disgruntled that further development hadn’t gone as they wanted. No exact closure date has been set other than in the next few months.
Jaiku is a micro-blogging service similar to Twitter that never got out of the invite-only stage. The Jaiku code will be made available to anyone. Jaiku will be maintained as place for people to post as well, supported by volunteer Googlers. Unlike some of the other closures, there’s no corresponding product at Google that Jaiku replaces. IE — it has no Twitter competitor of its own.
Twitter competitor Pownce closed earlier last month. Facebook was reportedly interested in buying Twitter, but the company wasn’t interested in selling at that time, it was said. That probably leaves FriendFeed (founded by four former Googlers) as the closest Twitter competitor out there, though arguably it depends on Twitter itself for much of its oomph. It’ll be interesting to see if Google decides it’s interested in Twitter, given the Facebook interest — perhaps shuttering Jaiku is indicative of something more to come. Pure speculation here, of course. Twitter was cofounded by former Googler Evan Williams.
The Google Mashup Editor was a limited test product open by invitation. Google’s closing this, saying that its App Engine serves as a more powerful replacement. Support for Mashup apps will end in six months.
Overall, the product closures are similar to what happened with Yahoo a year or two ago, when it had some products that never took off or multiple ones that served the same audience (such as Flickr versus Yahoo Photos). Unlike Yahoo, Google seems to be moving far faster to consolidate these things (and without major internal criticism becoming public, as Brad Garlinghouse’s infamous “Peanut Butter Memo” at Yahoo). That’s probably a positive — unless you’re one of the few who really liked one of these services.
The closures come on the heels of Google writing publicly that it has laid-off 100 recruiters and may cut 70 engineering jobs. Google’s first-ever layoffs came last year, as part of consolidating its purchase of DoubleClick. More recently, it was well publicized that it was laying off a large number of independent contractors and temporary employees. Google engineers have long been at the top of the heap when it comes to the Google pecking order. Now, neither products nor engineers seem to have a protected status, as Google goes into the grim economic times predicted for 2009.
For more, see related discussion on Techmeme.
Postscript: Google contacted me to stress that they don’t expect to cut 70 engineering jobs. Rather, they have about that many people who might not be willing to relocate when three offices are closed. They hope most will. But if some can, then those people may leave Google — but the engineering positions will be filled by new hires.