Technology, Top News

Google Updates birthday special: 10 of our favourite ‘retired’ Google products

Chris Merriman’s birthday cake from 23 years ago. Sigh

WELL HEY, Mr Google. Happy Birthday. You’re 20? And your younger inbred cousin Android is 10 this week as well? Well, that is cause for celebration, isn’t it?

Obviously, we’re delighted that what started as an alternative to Lycos has turned into the multi-multi-billion dollar mega-corp it is today. It keeps us in work for a start.

But let’s face it – it’s not all been plain sailing, has it? So let the others do the potted history of Google cribbed from Wikipedia. We’re going to roast it with ten of their “best” crashed projects.

Here’s to another two decades of ‘em!

10. Android Honeycomb
By the time we got to Gingerbread, it was quite clear that what Google really needed for the horrendously fragmented operating system, was to fragment it even more. Enter Honeycomb, a version of the OS designed specifically for tablets.

The motive was good, but it was avoiding the real issue, that of Android apps not scaling properly to the many different screen sizes on offer by that point.

It ran on the Motorola Xoom and not much else.

9. Picasa/Picnik
Both Picasa and Picnik were photo editors acquired and absorbed into the Googletron. Picasa survived as a standalone editor and offline photo manager long after Google+ and later Google Photos reflected the desire to move all its products online.

Alas, in the end, it too was given its marching orders. Its functionality survives, but as a web-based service with the Google Photos name. But we rather liked ol’ Picasa, it was a simpler time.

8. Google Talk
Before Google had nine different chat apps, there was Google Talk. It was simple and it worked. What’s more, because it was an XMPP-based service, you could chat with people on other chat platforms. Imagine that! If WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger could work together and people could chat to BBM users, world peace would probably have been established by now.

Either that or the BBM users would have kicked the living heck out of the Hangouts users in the London Riots.

7. Google Wave
Nobody knew what it did. Nobody. It made no sense. Even Googlers struggled to explain how this sort of collaboration-come-social network actually worked.

It was ahead of its time, that’s for certain. We’re still not sure what that time was, exactly, but it was ahead of it.

The big problem was that Google borked up the staged rollout of the product, trying to make it appeal to consumers. There was a huge wait, with invite codes going for silly money on eBay.

Trouble is, to make a social network or a collaboration platform, you need people. By stopping people using it, nobody got the chance to work out what it did, and in these pre-GSuite days, there weren’t enough invites to get companies (who might have made it work) all on together.

It still exists as Apache Wave. No, wait. They couldn’t work out how it worked either. It was retired at the start of 2018. Who knew?

6. iGoogle
The idea of a personalised portal page for the internet has always been appealing to people, but nobody has ever really got one right. Apart from anything else, if you use Google to search, Amazon to buy and Microsoft to collaborate, you’re going to be screwed by anything owned by one of the major players.

Plus, they were always an absolute ballache to set up in the first place.

iGoogle got gone.

5. Google Checkout… no, wait… Google Wallet…. no, wait…. Android Pay
Google’s attempts at online payments did not start well and quite often the market overtook them, hence multiple rebrands. We did consider an office pool over what they’d call it if Google Pay failed, but it seems to be doing alright, so far.

4. Orkut
Believe it or not, Orkut was probably Google’s most successful social network. Because that’s what it was – a proper social network.

Never heard of it? You’re probably not Brazilian. It was ruddy huge there. But it didn’t have Google branding so eventually it had to go.

3. Google Latitude
A separate app to Google Maps that let friends see where their friends were in real-time. At the time, it seemed revolutionary, but if someone came up with it in these enlightened times, there’d be a complete privacy freakout.

It was basically a stalking app for your friends. Though it was handy to see when your mate was on his journey down in the car, on a day to day basis, more than a few affairs and other dodgy doings were uncovered.

These days, there’s a paired down version in Google Maps. It has to be triggered by both parties for a set period after which it’s switched off. Kind of like it should have been all along.

2. Google Buzz
The social network that never was. Buzz was designed as an extra ‘layer’ of Google that would allow interaction and sharing.

Thing was, some bright spark thought it would be a good wheeze to take on Facebook, creating an instant network by signing people up and friending them overnight from their existing accounts. Millions of them.

Of course, the privacy outcry was spectacular and Google soon had to backtrack, creating opt-outs. But the damage was done. Google Buzz died, making way later for Google+. Which is almost as crap.

1. Google Reader
This is probably the single most missed Google product of them all. The RSS reader was ridiculously simple, but it worked, and it worked in a unique way that no one (bar perhaps spiritual successor Feedly) has ever emulated.

For Google, it was small potatoes, not worth the maintenance. It also detracted from plans for curated news feeds, much like the Google App offers today.

But there was an outcry when the decision was announced to ditch it. Google ignored it.

Well, that’s our ten but there are nearly 100 failed or retired products in the Google archive, so feel free to debate it further amongst yourselves. And Happy Birthday Google. Now bring back Google Reader ya miserable so-and-sos. 

Google Updates returns next week. μ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 'Professional Hackers India'. Technology Evangelist, Security Analyst, Cyber Security Expert, PHP Developer and Part time hacker.

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