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January 20, 2009

Google and Niche Services

Google continues to end projects, the most recent one being AdWords for Print. The blog post that explains the decision shows the big picture at Google:

"In the last few months, we've been taking a long, hard look at all the things we are doing to ensure we are investing our resources in the projects that will have the biggest impact for our users and partners. While we hoped that Print Ads would create a new revenue stream for newspapers and produce more relevant advertising for consumers, the product has not created the impact that we — or our partners — wanted. (...) As we grow, it is important that we focus on products that can benefit the most people and solve the most important problems. By moving resources away from projects that aren't having the impact we want, we can refocus our efforts on those that will delight millions of users."

That's the reason why Google closes or stops investing in small projects that couldn't attract a big audience. Google Answers, Google Notebook, Browser Sync, Lively, Hello weren't very popular and Google decided to close them. Some of them were open sourced and migrated to Google App Engine, while others became start-ups. This is a big opportunity for start-ups: create services that aren't likely to go mainstream in the near future.


  1. > That's the reason why Google closes or stops investing in
    > small projects that couldn't attract a big audience.
    > Google Answers, Google Notebook, Browser Sync, Lively,
    > Hello weren't very popular and Google decided to close
    > them.

    Ionut, that's only half the picture. For instance, I watched Google Answers closely in the beginning and it became obvious that what the service needed was a push, like a link from the Google homepage -- something a product like Google Chrome, for instance, has received. (Instead, Google removed more and more links that once pointed to the program.) So saying that one product has been cancelled because it didn't attract enough people may be right, but that still doesn't explain why Google specifically invests in *making sure another product will attract enough people* (like by that arguably powerful Google homepage link, or by advertising its own product on all YouTube pages, which both happens with Chrome).

  2. Yeah, I agree with Philipp. Also, Google needs to do more advertising of it's own. I teach at a Memorial University of Newfoundland, we have about 20 000 students on campus, and I encounter very few of them that's heard of Google products besides Search, Gmail, and Earth. Docs or Apps are completely unheard of, until they enter my teaching lab!!

  3. It is hard to psychoanalyse google since they do not reveal very much about themselves. At best it seems that google is somewhat silly, they seem to expect every product to be a 'hula hoop', an overnight popular success. It seems that they do not have, or have lost, the capacity to integrate, market, or make consistant their various products. For example, Lively could have been included as an experimental lab feature for google talk/chat. Doing this would make finding 'Lively' somewhat easier for a new user and secondly they may have found a way to mutually enhance two products via intergration. Without making such an effort it is no wonder that user accptance of some products is not thriving.They seem to forget that Gmail was not an instant success, but, in this case they had time on their hands because gmail happened when they did not have to worry about market conditions.Apart from being silly I think that google should be more sensitvie to user sentiments. Many users by force of sheer persistance have discovered the usefullness and positive qualities of some google products, such as notebooks.Google should be careful about trashing these sentiments by discontiunuing these products simply because Google has not figured out how to logically and effectively market their product.

  4. bah, those services didn't go mainstream because Google didn't make publicity, and they didn't make publicity because they didn't find an immediate way of making money from them, so management accepted to allow engineers to do their experiments without giving a penny in order to publicizing them... in order to close them as soon as possible...
    what is going on at google is a problem of commercial management increasing power, management has definitely taken control over engineering, this the start of the end of Google as we knew it, in a couple of years they'll be as evil as all the others before them.

  5. it would indeed appear that google is loosing its principles. engineers have much less free reign now. i wonder how long 20% time will last? or has that gone already?

  6. losing its principles or losing money? Google is a business like any other and is probably feeling the effects of this recession. No doubt this is about cutting costs


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