Google prunes some of its branches

It is that time again at Google when it has to prune some of its various branches. Since Google co-founder Larry Page took over the reins as CEO in April last year, Google has been reducing and trimming its projects to renew and regain focus.

Google has come under investor scrutiny as it is facing increasing competition from both Apple and Facebook.

This spring cleaning is part of the various cost cutting and refocusing efforts. In the latest cleaning exercise announced a few weeks ago, Google will be pulling the plug on seven of its projects.

1. Google Knol

Google launched Knol in 2007 to help improve web content and as a challenge to Wikipedia that enabled experts to collaborate on in-depth articles. Knol will be available till April 30, 2012, to enable users to download their Knols to a file and/or migrate them to the WordPress platform. After that till October 1, 2012, Knols cannot be viewed but users will be able to download and export content. After October 2012, the Knol content will no longer be available.

2. Google Gears

Google has closed the Gears browser extension for creating offline web applications and stopped supporting new browsers in March this year. From December 1, 2011, Gears-based Gmail and Calendar offline will not work across all browsers, and Gears will not be available for download from late December this year. Google announced that this is part of their effort to help incorporate offline capabilities into HTML5. Users can access Gmail, Calendar and Docs offline in Chrome.

3. Renewable Energy

Google has abandoned its ambitious plans to make renewable energy cheaper than coal. Google had started this project in 2007 as a means on driving down the price of renewable energy with a strong focus on solar power. Google announced that the head of the project, Bill Weihl (William E. Weihl) has left the company and it believes that other organizations were in a better position to take its efforts to the next level.

4. Google Wave

Google has earlier stopped further development on Google Wave. Now it has announced that as of January 31, 2012, Wave will be available as only a read-only version and users won’t be able to create new ones. This will be completed closed on April 30, 2012. Users can transfer individual waves using the existing PDF export feature.

5. Google Search Timeline

Google will be removing this feature that displays a historical graph of results for a search query. Users will now be able to restrict any search to particular time periods using the refinement tools on the left-hand side of the search page. Uses who wish to view graphs with historical trends for a web search can use Google Trends or Google Insights for data since 2004. If you need more historical data, the “Ngram Viewer” in Google Books offers the same information.

The Google Trends Product Logo

6. Google Friend Connect

Google Friend Connect, which is a social feature, will be discontinued from March, this is because Google wants people to start using the Google Plus social network instead.

7. Google Bookmarks

The feature will become unavailable from December 19, 2011. This enabled users to share bookmarks and collaborate with friends. The existing bookmark Lists will be retained and labelled to make it easier to identify. The other features of the Google Bookmarks will keep on functioning. The change won’t affect the non-English users as it was an English only feature.

This spring cleaning is only a sign that Google knows that it currently faces big competition, so it needs to make sure that it discontinues disused/inefficient services it provides.

18 thoughts on “Google prunes some of its branches

  1. I think Google is taking well thought out steps. With all of the possibilities it must be challenging to streamline their projects. While I’m sure it represents issues for many people, I can see why the projects you listed have been cut.

    It’s interesting to see how new developments in this competitive climate pan out for these giants of the industry. Nice article!

  2. Nice post. It’s always interesting when Google launch a new product — you can usually predict if it will fail or not. Google Knol, which hardly anyone knows about if they are honest, was such a bizarre project — it demonstrated that not even the might of Google can compete with Wikipedia.

    Wave might have been dead in the water from launch as not may people ‘got it’ but I think you can see some of the techniques have made it into Google+

    Google+ — I wonder where that will be in a few years? Google are certainly putting huge effort into it, and each of it’s apps are falling into the same design as G+, so they clearly believe in this one. Let’s hope they are not too late to the market !

  3. I wonder when Google will do away with Orkut? It’s still somewhat popular in a few countries but to me it makes sense to close it and bring all those users over to Google Plus instead since that’s their prime vehicle of competition against Facebook.


    • I’m thinking it will eventually disappear as Google encourage us all to switch to G+

      If you look at the site traffic figures, it was pushing 50 million visitors a day, but in June 2011 (around the launch of G+) it dipped, recovered and the plummeted to a low of just over 25 million

      • Good observations, David. I guess they are just taking a delicate and gradual approach toward the ultimate closure of Orkut so as to not slight the longstanding userbase that it does have at the moment.


    • You’re absolutely right. Orkut was still very popular in Brazil. Before the beginning of last year, India and Brazil were two majority users of Brazil. But soon it died off in India (everyone switched to Facebook), and I think Brazil was the only one by now that still used Orkut widely. But as David said, I’m guessing Google decided to focus solely on ONE decent stable and perfect Social Network – Google+. Obviously, this means they can divert all the resources of Orkut to Google+ for better results.

      • Christopher (admin team)

        I think I would agree with you there Jack.

        Is it possible that all the others may have been designed to fail, as there purpose was to do research in order to make + the best it could be?

        Who knows 🙂

  4. I think it is a good move on Google’s part to streamline their focus. I especially think them taking on making energy cheaper and more sustainable was a bit a big bite to chew off.

  5. I used to use Google Bookmarks. For some reason, I felt the user interface of G bookmarks was … simper and effective, compared to other personal bookmarking sites. I don’t know, maybe I have never just bothered to look at the alternatives, but yeah I’m gonna miss it.

    Which online alternative for personal bookmarking would you guys recommend?

  6. As a holder of Google stock I am glad they are doing this and it long overdue. I always wondered what they were thinking trying all of these offshoots that had nothing to do with their core business. The one thing I am glad they are doing is Google+ though. I think that will be a true Facebook rival and maybe even overtake it one day.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      Google + is an interesting one Jay, it seemed to really zoom off like a train, but seems to have stalled since…

      We will have to wait and see 🙂

      Thanks for your comment, welcome to the community!
      Christopher – Admin Team

  7. Do you really think Google is doing all of these because it’s only a sign that Google knows that it currently faces big competition? Do you think if Google is achieving much from these services and there is stiff competition, Google will close these “shops”?

    What I think is that Google is only trying to refocus and redirect its might in the right direction. I’m a big fan of Google and I think there is much we can learn from it’s operations. There is definitely a big plan Google is working out. Since launching G+ many think Google wants to compete with Facebook as another social media giant. But from all indications Google is only trying to establish itself as the giant (or as I prefer to call it, the big Daddy) of search.

    I’m very sure these recent moves are all geared towards achieving that aim. Google already knows that it is in the search engine technology that it has competitive advantage and so any other that is not helping in that area has to go!

  8. Wow! I never know that google supports renewable energy, that was a good move for them I think. But unfortunately they stop it. Well I guess they knew better what to stop than me 🙂 lol!

    • Christopher (admin team)

      I am not sure the scheme was working very well, and after a key player left, it seems to have sort of fallen to pieces.

      Thanks for the comment Eliza, welcome to the blog 🙂
      Christopher – Admin Team

  9. Facebook dramatically grabs huge attention from internet users around the world and now it ranks right under Google in Alexa. That’s why Google launched G+. With this move Google can focus on its products that are expected to provide maximum profits.

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