January 16, 2009 |
So yes, now we really know that things are really bad in the internet industry with the most certain proof of all being the fact that even the almighty Google is hit by the crisis as its advertising-generated revenue is shrinking. On Wednesday via a series of posts on various blogs Google officially announced some layoffs and a few closed projects. And while everyone is already screaming about how bad things must be in the economy with even Google having to downsize its enormously huge business, there are also people who realize that Google had plenty of reasons to make the decisions they’ve made – money being the most important factor of all. The problem with many of these services is that Google did not really want to invest in further developing them and bringing something useful to the online population. And without any progress in development you can hardly expect people to arrive and generate profits for your product. So here are my thoughts on the projects closed or very much limited by Google from this week.
No uploads to Google Video
First of all, there will be no uploads to Google Video available, that’s a fact now and everyone will have to stick to YouTube. But the problem is everyone has been on YouTube for ages and no one really bothered about Google Video for quite a while now. No real difference for Google here as the Google-owned YouTube is a much better business for the internet giant anyway – it may not be able to generate revenues comparable to the scale of the service itself but it is hugely popular which can serve as a good substitution providing the owner with some time lag to at least figure out how to monetize it.
The only question posed here is if Google will lift the limit of the videos size and length on YouTube as right now you can’t upload videos longer than 10 minutes while there was no such limitation on Google Video. This is probably the only thing people will miss unless Google offers longer uploads on YouTube so I suspect that Google will have to do something in that field eventually – probably as a premium feature maybe.
Google Notebook will still remain the place to work in for existing users but no new accounts will be available and the browser extension will not be available any more. It is strange that I have never realized there were people using the service until Google announced its discontinuation – I heard a small development team here in Russia complaining they won’t be able to use it as much as we did and multiple bloggers mentioning they used Google Notebook for research as well.
But the alternatives are obviously here: you can use Evernote which is an incredibly powerful competitor that has been quickly developing and adding new features rapidly. Also when something is not enough for me from the Google productivity suit I usually turn to Zoho – and ironically Zoho announced a bunch of new features to its own Notebook on the very day Google closed the Notebook. I don’t think the two events had any relation but it sounds perfectly reasonable for many users to adopt a Zoho service – and maybe adopt a few of the other applications from their excellent productivity suite. Lifehacker offers tips on what to do with your Notebooks now that your favorite service is gone.
The optical character recognition technology that Google began to experiment with in Google Catalog now powers the Google Book Search – the service that is definitely way more popular and much more needed by users – so it is no wonder this service has been abandoned for some time and officially closed now. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone disappointed about absence of this product from Google from now on so chances are it lost its appeal a while ago.
Dodgeball was a service Google acquired probably to look trendy and keep up with the users who wanted to introduce social networking to their mobile devices by easier connecting to the other users around them. But while Dodgeball looked hip and cool at the time, everyone quickly forgot about it with Google doing virtually nothing to continue the development. This service looked like it had been abandoned long ago by Google and the company lost its passion for mobile social networking – so it is no surprise it has finally been closed the way we expected it would be. I have heard a few disappointed voices but overall I feel like people only remembered it existed when the heard the news about Dodgeball officially closing the doors.
This Twitter competitor never really took off to the extent enough to mention it as a real competitor – it is a similar service but with much less buzz surrounding it and with much less users, obviously. Jaiku was very similar to Dodgeball as it was also acquired by Google and virtually neglected after that. The service never even exited the private beta testing stage even though everyone was curious to see how serious Google was about a Twitter-like product of its own. Now we all know that Google was not really serious as Jaiku will be made open-source for everyone to contribute and for existing users to remain supported by volunteer Google employees.
Google Mashup Editor
This is the product the majority of us have not even heard of – let alone used. This Ajax applications development framework was not powerful enough for serious things and now everything in that field will only happen in Google App Engine – a much more powerful product that offers more opportunities and probably will be considered as actually useful by developers.
So yes, we have heard complaints about some of the products closing – Dodgeball and Notebook mainly – but the voices are rare and people don’t really seem to be very unhappy about the changing landscape. And it is logical – business should be about business and making money, not only about ambitions of the company’s owners. Yet for a very long time Google behaved like it wanted to be an online empire with presence absolutely everywhere.
But did anyone actually believe Google really had to be everywhere and all the newly developed and acquired products really made sense? To me it often looked like Google just had a strange strategy of trying to establish presence in virtually every field of online business. But is a presence really needed if it is so small that it is barely noticeable?
The most obvious conclusion here is that during a recession even Google can’t afford investing in products that don’t generate revenue. What’s more, they negatively affect the overall financial performance of the huge company and what people think of its shares – and of course it will be worse to see bad financial results reported by Google for the next quarter than just see a few products go.
Of course Google could do something good with all the services it is now closing but that should have required money and human resources invested in them – and Google probably had other priorities at the time. But now it is too much to even try to keep services that could potentially be great and maybe even profitable. Right now is the time for the corporation to be profitable – even if it can only be achieved with a few victims on the road.