Nikhil SubramaniamSep 27, 2013 16:25:58 IST
Nobody likes being reminded about mistakes on their birthday, but Google, you are a grown-up now and we think you can take it. It’s been 15 years now, and your successes are great, but you also falter a lot, making us believe indeed there are humans working at Google and not clinical machines. Here are the things you messed up, in no particular order.
Does anyone miss Wave? We don’t know, but Google’s attempt at creating a collaborative working tool bombed. Nobody fully understood the potential of Wave because its public release only lasted a few months. Adoption was slower than even Google+. Google announced Wave in 2009 at I/O and it took them a little over a year to give up on the project. Wave was completely shuttered by 2011, to no one’s surprise. The funny thing is Wave had great potential thanks to its real-time nature and software extensions, which could add features like automatic translation and spell check on the fly.
Unlike Wave, Nexus Q never made it to full release. Google decided to pull the plug on the media streaming device after developers didn’t warm up to its spartan feature set, especially considering the high $299 price tag.
Somewhere in its obsession with driving Android development forward, Google lost track of the fact that manufacturing cannot move at the same speed. So while manufacturers were pushing out Gingerbread devices, Ice Cream Sandwich was being served at Google. Google should have used its clout with manufacturers to ensure all software is kept updated to the latest version, letting users have a bug-free experience.
Buzz and Wave gave away to Google+
One cannot ignore Orkut when talking about Google screw ups. Google continues to support Orkut for the large user base it has in Brazil and India. But how many of them actually use Orkut daily? In an attempt to show that it still cares for the social network, Google let Orkut users connect their Google+ account and display a badge saying you are on both networks. There was even an app launched for iOS. So clearly Google is still carrying this deadweight.
Dodgeball was founded by one of the guys who made Foursquare. It worked like this: Users would text their location to a number and Dodgeball would throw back interesting things to do around the area as well as notify you of any friends in the neighbourhood. Google bought Dodgeball in 2005 and it was dropped in 2009, but not before Google used it to develop Latitude, which as it turns out, has also been discontinued now!
Google pulling the plug on Reader resulted in worldwide outrage. Millions used the RSS service on a daily basis and the sudden decision made Google a kind of public enemy. Now there are services which let you migrate your Reader feeds to their platforms, but Google made a lot of enemies with the move to kill it.
Buying stake in AOL
In 2005, Google bought a five percent stake in AOL for a billion dollars. In return, Google would be the default search engine on AOL for five years. But AOL deteriorated and Google decided to make a run for it before all its money sank. In 2009, Google sold back its stake for $283 million, $717 million short of its investment amount. What a bummer!
Jaiku, Dodgeball and Knol were short-lived ventures
Hangouts looks and works great, but Google turned on its open-source foundation and moved to a proprietary protocol for the new cross-platform messaging app. Previously, Google Talk was based on Jabber (or Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol – XMPP), an open-standards protocol that many other IM apps and software use for interoperability. This meant Google Talk support could be packed into chat clients for specialised or even consumer systems. This is no longer possible after the transition to Hangouts, which should be final in the coming few months.
Google’s attempt to take on Twitter was another disastrous idea. Buzz combined facets of social networking and microblogging and because this is Google, there was chat as well. Despite deep integration with Google’s services, Buzz drew criticism because the company decided to opt-in users without sufficient privacy settings such as openly revealing contacts who you talk to frequently or sharing the location of posts without the user’s consent. Ultimately, the unoriginal service was discontinued in 2011, with some features being retained for Google+.
Google Play in India
Google sells apps, games, movies, books and one device in India through Google Play, but there’s no music or TV shows in the list. The device store only has the nearly two-year-old Nexus 7 tablet and not all variants of it are available. Even the Nexus 4 which is officially available in India is not sold through the Play Store. This half-baked implementation combined with Apple selling music through iTunes in India, means Google is lagging in terms of ecosystem support in one of the largest markets in the world.
Ever heard of Knol? We won't fault you if you haven't. Knol was Google's way of getting user-generated articles on topics all across the board. Each post was called a knol, which Google called a unit of knowledge. Most articles in Knol were related to the medical field. In many ways, Knol was Google's answer to Wikipedia, though unlike Wikipedia, Google considered certain topics objectionable. Since Google allowed many users to post on the same topic, there was quite a lot of repetition, resulting in a cacophonous atmosphere. Google shut down Knol in 2012 after four years of running it.
Nexus Q never made it to the public
Google+ has improved a lot since its inception and it certainly looks more polished than the cluttered mess it was in its early days. But it’s still way behind Facebook in terms of usage and maturity. Google has not done a great job of simplifying G+ for its users and most just consider it an unnecessary alternative. Google+ has always had a me-too feel about it, despite differentiators such as Circles, photo editing and integration with YouTube and Play Store. More importantly, G+ is still strange waters for a world all too familiar with Facebook.
Not buying Sun Microsystems
Google has made some key purchases over the course of its 15 years, with Android being the most prominent example today. But the one big acquisition that it missed out on could have changed the industry. Google wanted to buy Sun, the makers of Java, which is used extensively by Google for its products. The asking price was a cool $7 billion plus. Google failed to buy Sun and the eventual owners Oracle filed an anti-trust suit against Google which is still ongoing. So by not spending billions to buy Sun, Google ended up paying billions in court and licensing fees and still doesn't have full control of Java.
Not buying Sun cost Google dearly
Jaiku, a social networking and life blogging service, was bought by Google in 2007, a year after it was founded. The service was compatible with Nokia S60 devices through the Jaiku Mobile client and allowed users to make posts to their Jaiku page. Jaiku's USP was Lifestream, an internet feed that posted user activity from other services such as Flickr or last.fm to the Jaiku page. Google took Jaiku open-source in 2009 and Lifestream was removed. Eventually Google shuttered the service in January 2012 after a brief period where it looked like it would inject new life into Jaiku.
For a while, Google had aspirations to take over your OS. Google Desktop let users search the web as well as local files and emails to get the information they needed. It worked pretty much like the search function on Windows or Mac, so most users didn’t see the need for another software for the same job. In addition, Google Desktop allowed users to pin widgets to a Sidebar ranging from email to clocks to news to photos. As with most Google search products, there were privacy concerns about Desktop as it allowed users to search across a network of computers as well, which could potentially reveal sensitive data such as private emails and confidential plans.
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