An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

Send your tips to gostips@gmail.com.

August 27, 2011

Google Sets Will Be Shut Down

Google Sets, one of my favorite Google Labs experiments, will be shut down on September 5, just like Google Squared. Launched in 2002, Google Sets is the only experiment from the early days of Google Labs that's still available, even though it hasn't graduated.

The great thing about Google Sets is that it only did one thing and did it very well: automatically generating lists from a few examples. Google Sets used the explicit and implicit lists from the pages indexed by Google and tried to find the lists that were relevant to the examples entered by users. For example, you could enter "Honda" and "Toyota" and Google Sets returned a long list of car brands.



The patent filed in 2003 explains that, at that time, there wasn't any "mechanism for quickly and efficiently generating lists of items given one or more example". Web pages included a lot of lists: some of them were created using special HTML tags (<ul>, <ol>, document headers), others used tables, while most of them were items separated by commas or tabs. The patent was filed by Simon Tong, a researcher who contributed to Google's ranking algorithm, designed AdSense's targeting algorithm and Gmail's spam detection's learning algorithm, and Jeff Dean, who designed Google's crawling, indexing, and query serving systems, BigTable and MapReduce, the initial version of Google's advertising serving system and a lot more.

Google Sets was the building block for Google Squared, a service that generated lists and information about the items. If you type "dogs" in Google Squared, you'll see a list of dog breeds, related images, descriptions, the size and the country of origin. The list of dog breeds is now also displayed at the bottom of Google's results page for [dogs]. The attributes aren't yet available in Google Search, but this feature will probably added in the future.


While Google Sets and Google Squared will no longer be available, they're still used in Google Search to better understand the content of a page and to provide lists of related searches.

Update: Google Sets is still available as a Google Spreadsheets feature.

40 comments:

  1. Google Sets functionality will stay perhaps available - one never knows for sure with Google - from Google Docs spreadsheets using Ctrl+dragdown.
    See: https://docs.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en-GB&answer=75509&topic=1360901
    'Also, if Auto-Fill doesn't recognise your content, you can try using Google Sets, a Google Labs product, to establish a pattern. For more information about Google Sets and other Google Labs products, visit http://labs.google.com/sets. To use Google Sets with AutoFill, complete steps 1 and 2 above, and in step 3, press Ctrl (Windows and Linux) or Option (Mac) while you click and drag the blue box to select additional cells.'

    ReplyDelete
  2. Damn, I found Google Sets a very usefull tool! I hate how google only thinks of the masses, and the thousands of sets-users forming the minority are just ignored.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is a pretty sad day! I just have discovered recently this tool and found it very useful. Now they're going to shut it down. Now I come to understand that Google is a very unreliable service. They shut down Google Dictionary recently and now this set tool. What's next, Google? Gmail, perhaps?

    ReplyDelete
  4. hmmm...sayonara...
    but i hope any others change for it...more than it..more cool...hihihihi

    ReplyDelete
  5. Is not google Square functionality already built into Google image search. via the following two options;

    Sort by subject
    Sort by relevence

    ReplyDelete
  6. Of all the labs, Google Sets is one of the first and remains one of the most useful when trying to find related items. I wish Google would provide the functionality via some other tool.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Would have been great if this lab experiment would have had graduated.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Is set features consumed in other Google products? like Google search?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good reminder to not rely on Google for planned site features. I'll have to find another way to add a feature I thought may be a differentiator for me. Thanks for the heads up.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Naah.... Where's the Dislike- or "-1"-button when you need one :(

    ReplyDelete
  11. :( Was really hoping this Lab would survive the genocide currently going on at Google.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I do wish to find something with similar functionality. I regularly use google sets to find related movies, songs in genres, etc. I even use it as a more intuitive thesaurus.

    Definitely a shame.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm sure they've got some cut and dry, by-the-numbers approach that determines which Google sites remain and those they decide to discontinue but one which I find hard to understand, irksome in its implementation.

    Google Notebook, Google Sets are two specific tools I found particularly useful, seem low maintenance compared to the services provided, that are being phased out, yet keep sites such as Custom Search, Google Groups, Knol, who has even heard of Knol?, available.

    ReplyDelete
  14. google seem to be on a rampage of product closures at the moment, likely a cost cutting measure like everyone else in these economic times..

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm also going to miss it. Any time I only knew about one or two of a particular thing I would go there to find more. For posterity I took a screenshot of my last Sets search when I was looking a Mailchimp alternatives.

    ReplyDelete
  16. i think we're gonna have to keep booting up the clunky Google AdSense Keyword Tool now that Google Sets is gone

    ReplyDelete
  17. Google sets was in decline. It started out very useful, but the last few times I tried to use it, the results were quite disappointing.

    ReplyDelete
  18. @ahab

    Thanks Ahab, that worked like a charm. For anyone who misses Google Sets, check out ahab's link and comment (the very first comment).

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well, thats too bad. I liked this tool !

    ReplyDelete
  20. A sad day. I have used sets for years, and today when I want to list off CPU processing (like MMU, PhysX, GPU, FPU) I find it closed.

    Its easy to see why though. How can Google make money from single word answers (rhetorical question - don't send postcards).

    ReplyDelete
  21. I cry at night missing Sets. Please bring it back.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I've been seeing this question popup in almost every SEO community I participate in. "Are there any good alternatives to Google Sets?"

    Well, I'd feel like a hero if I had arrived at the answer on my own, but a fellow named Ben discovered that you can use a simple Google Docs spreadsheet to pull data from Google sets.

    I thought it was so useful that I wrote a blog post about it with instructions:
    http://glenmcniel.com/google-sets-alternative-no-clone-replacement-api-needed/

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is very frustrating to me. I have used Google Sets for many years and have depended on it in a specialized manner since the first time I used it. I am sad.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This sucks. I've used it countless times for various purposes. Gotta find another way.

    ReplyDelete
  25. this was useful tool.....
    any alternative tool of google sets???

    ReplyDelete
  26. Don't know any alternative. If anyone has a similar project, please share !

    ReplyDelete
  27. Yes,I concur with most of the sentiments. Please bring Sets back.

    ReplyDelete
  28. What is the reason for this product not to graduate? I like it a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Aw... such a useful thing. =[

    ReplyDelete
  30. Boo! This was one of those tools that I rarely used, but when I did it was really, really useful. :(

    ReplyDelete
  31. Are they any other tools like google sets?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Omg Why Google did this, It was one of the most Important tools for my Business

    ReplyDelete
  33. Anyone have any other suggestion?

    ReplyDelete
  34. Just think, if google sets was around, I could use it to search for tools that achieve a similar purpose... but the irony of course being that if it was still around, I'd never need to use it in such a way. Such is life after the demise of locally executing applications that can be kept/used long term... now that we have the vanishing cloud... we can expect this to happen more often

    ReplyDelete
  35. It was google sets that decided on a name for my youngest son: typing my name, my wives name and my daugters name resulted in 1 (and only 1) name within Google Sets - and that is the name we gave to our son: David. (DLK)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Damn! I used this tool every few months and have done for many years.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Google sets is really awesome. So if it is shutdown, I expect better thing will be coming up better than ever.

    ReplyDelete