Google's biggest fails

Google's biggest fails

For a long time, Google has been known for starting a bunch of different projects, testing out new products and then seeing what ultimately worked. This strategy has changed recently, as AndroidPIT Germany editor Hans-Georg stated recently. Because of this risk-taking, Google's history also includes many projects which failed miserably. Sometimes the public simply wasn't interested, and occasionally an idea was doomed to fail at its inception. It's time to take a look into the past and ruminate on Google's failed projects.

This article is a collaborative piece from Sophia Neun and Bastian Siewers

Google+ and other social experiments

Written by Sophia Neun

Some may cry out at this headline and refuse to accept that Google+ was a failure. But, as a fan of this network for many years, I believe I'm allowed to make such a statement. 

I was euphoric when the network was introduced in 2011. Other Google fans desperately wanted an invitation to this new and initially closed social network. It was supposed to be an alternative to Facebook and many wanted to test the concept of circles as an alternative to friends. But is the network now where it wanted to be? Until recently, Google had frantically tried to run all of its services via Google+, and even YouTube was affected. Active users of Google+ thought this was great, but everybody else cursed the idea. Even after all these years, I still have the feeling that the system was a space for tech enthusiasts only and that hardly a single company devoted itself to the network. This can of course be spun into a positive light, but for the masses, Google+ was anything but a success. 

Google Glass hero
Google+ never really worked at all. / © ANDROIDPIT

Incidentally, Google+ wasn't the company's first stride into social networking. Remember Google Buzz and Google Orkut? Both were officially abandoned by Google, and I have the unfortunate feeling that Google+ will suffer the same fate.

Google Orkut may have escaped your attention. It functioned as a network to find old and new friends. Google Orkut would recommend new contacts for you based on the interests that you indicated. However, the network only found success in Brazil and was ended in 2014. Google Buzz met a similar end. With this network, you could leave notes on Google Maps for all users to see. But often, people only used this function to post the inane comment 'First!!'.

To end this section with my favorite quote: the question isn't if Google+ will be terminated, but when. 

Google Glass provided little transparency

Written by Bastian Siewers​​​​​​​

To portray Google Glass as a completely failed project would be somewhat unfair. It was clearly an experimental project from the outset and Google surely didn't expect to achieve wide commercial success with it. And in any case, we need certain projects to advance technology. The Google Glass project was officially announced in June 2012 and received a lot of attention in the tech world. We hadn't seen such a product before and were naturally excited, or at least curious. 

Google Glass hero
Google Glass generated a lot of attention, but never caught on. / © ANDROIDPIT

Google Glass never achieved success and only a few developer-edition models were ultimately sold. For one, the glasses were simply too big. As someone who doesn't wear glasses, I would never wear such a product on my face only to use a few limited functions.

Consumers are extremely cautious with data protection, which is another problem with Glass. In this regard, Google Glass raised many concerns. How do I know that I'm not being filmed? Or that the microphone isn't running without my knowledge?

On top of this was the price. The beta version, called the Explorer Edition, was intended for developers and came with a hefty $1,500 price tag. It was available from February 2013. What the glasses would have cost in the shop remains a secret, as it never got this far. Google made several announcements about an official launch, but the program was abandoned in January 2015. 

As mentioned at the start, Google likes to try all the possibilities. But success is ultimately determined by us, the consumers. Google Glass was likely ahead of its time, and that it was unsuccessful is not a huge surprise. Companies like Google or Microsoft certainly haven't given up on augmented reality glasses. Recently with the HoloLens, another manufacturer went a completely different direction. We're excited for the next consumer products to find their way to us.

Google Latitude lost its way

Written by Sophia Neun

Always want to know where your family members or friends are? Google Latitude offered this feature, which is still available through Google Maps today. So why include this in our article? Google wasn't clear on where to go with this. Initially offered as a standalone option within Google Maps, it was later exported to Google+ only to be reintegrated into Google Maps recently. This was frustrating for all users who needed to adjust to changing features, and also re-accept the terms and conditions.

Still, there was a lot of benefit from this feature at the beginning. The widget was very convenient, but this changed with its integration into Google+. We may be guilty here of whining about first world problems, but such a service should be easy to both install and operate. I'm not even an Apple fan, but I have to admit that 'Find my Friends' on iOS is somewhat more practical. Google has the advantage that Google Maps can be run on both iOS and Android and thus reach more people. But the general population is likely unaware that such an option exists, and that anyone with a current version of Google Maps can use it. 

google maps share location de
Finally available again in the current version of Maps! / © NextPit

Hangouts and co.

Written by Sophia Neun

The story of Google's messengers is almost more confusing than Latitude. Not only did the location of the service often change, but also the type of implementation. 

So it all began with Google Talk, which was integrated into Gmail. This messenger used the open XMPP protocol. As a result, you could message users of any other service using this protocol, not just Google Talk users. A relative of mine was always impressed because he had his own server at home and could nevertheless communicate comfortably with me. A downside was that group chats didn't function well and you'd receive notifications on all devices. 

Naturally, Google wanted to move everyone to its own social network, and so arrived the Google+ messenger. This only worked on devices with Google+ and didn't run on PC browsers. With it, it became more comfortable to start group chats and notifications also felt slightly better.  

But Google didn't stop there and created Hangouts in 2013. This messenger app combined messenger with video chat, and even had the functionality to make phone calls in the US. This was a perfect solution for me. Thanks to online storage, I no longer needed to worry about data security when I switched smartphones. Also, the service was compatible across platforms, and worked on my smartphone, tablet and computer. But instead of developing the messenger further and implementing user feedback, Google instead threw another messenger app onto the market in 2016.  

Allo google assistant 3
Allo's Assistant provides an exciting new approach. / © Google

Allo works using a telephone number. This should make it more suitable for the masses than the previous messengers which worked via an email address. Allo also appears much more colorful and doesn't save chats online. These are saved onto the device and are lost when you change phones as there's no backup function. Otherwise Allo is very colorful and should impress with its text formatting options, stickers and Google Assistant. It's an exciting concept in itself, but the lack of development and insecurity behind Google messengers repels many people from the service. The wide distribution of WhatsApp also likely plays a role. A messenger with less functionality will not entice many people to switch. 

Don't hold your breath for Google to update its old messengers. Instead, look forward to new ones.

Google Reader didn't entice enough readers

Written by Bastian Siewers

For a long time, the Google Reader was one of the services I used most. It was long my favorite source for all types of news, from politics to technology to daily gossip.

Google had brought the feed reader to life way back in 2005. Nevertheless, I wasn't especially happy with the interface which Google provided, and I wasn't alone in this. Few services have attracted so many third parties as Google Reader. Primarily, in the last few years there have been countless alternative interfaces. And then came Feedly, which offered one of the most beautiful user interfaces. 

But on July 1, 2013, this was over for good. Google abandoned the reader. The primary reason was that Google Reader wasn't being used by a lot of people. The app was getting old, and many various news applications had found their way into the list of top apps. An antiquated feed reader which you needed to set up yourself was simply too old-fashioned.

AndroidPIT feedly 0053
Feedly had taken the place of Google Reader. / © ANDROIDPIT

The disappearance of Google Reader broke my world apart. Find another reliable source for my news? No thank you, Reader worked wonderfully. Feedly luckily saw its chance and took over the role of the reader. To this day I still use this service daily. The best part of switching was how easy it was. Ultimately, the developers of Feedly handled the entire changeover, meaning that I only needed to log in to my Google Account as normal. 

This works to this very day and I've never needed to reassign feeds or anything like that. Of course there are other companies whose services may offer similar features to the feed reader. But with this reader it was incredibly easy to try out new UIs. The hurdle in switching is much higher when you need to reselect all your active feeds or set up the app again. I still miss the Google Reader for the simple reason that I like to try out new services. Feedly is nevertheless a satisfactory replacement. 

Google Wave had a wipeout

Written by Bastian Siewers

Google Wave was Google's first foray into the field of collaborative working. The idea behind this was pretty genius. In May 2009, Google introduced a product at Google I/O which allowed colleagues to work simultaneously on one document. You could create 'Waves' and invite multiple colleagues to collaborate. This had the effect of looking like a thread in a forum, or a group chat in today's messenger apps. 

google io 2017 005
There were some amazing new products to see at this year's I/O. / © Screenshot: AndroidPIT

With Wave we have a product which we can't strictly describe as 'failed'. The idea behind it was really good and many of its functions are found today in Google's office suite with Docs, Sheets and Slides. These programs are underpinned by the idea that several users can work together on the same document. And this functions better today than ever before. 

The service was ultimately ended in April 2012 and its servers deactivated. The service likely never reached the user count which Google had aimed for. But as said before, although the program is dead, the idea behind it certainly isn't. While collaboration is at the core of Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, direct communication in the form of a chat has been sidelined.

Of course, Google has made other products which ultimately failed, but we wanted to concentrate on the bigger projects here.

Which project did you enjoy the most?
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  • solis May 29, 2017 Link to comment

    I use Google+ with my friends and family and find it very good. I hope Google won't turn it off, I have no alternative to it (I will never use Facebook).

  • Carmelo Rivera May 24, 2017 Link to comment

    Google is not afraid to experiment to see what works or not. They're not afraid to fail sometimes. Not like that "fruit" company that always plays it safe to keep up appearances.

  • Louie Cafarella May 24, 2017 Link to comment

    I don't think Google+ is a failure. But I do agree that it's pretty much for tech enthusiasts only. That's where I go when I want new wallpapers or new customization ideas for my phone.

  • ljhaye May 24, 2017 Link to comment

    Other failures include Google wallet, Tango, Ara, Android Wear, & Daydream.

  • Ron Hagley May 24, 2017 Link to comment

    I know I will be criticised for this comment but I think Google + was one of the worst things Google ever did. I will be glad to see it go. Just wish there was some way to remove that piece of junk and hangouts etc from my android phones. It seems to be installed in the factories - probably something to do with Googles licencing of Android and can't be removed or uninstalled. This wastes storage which can be very important on phones with restricted storage. Same goes for Play Books Play Games and Play Newsstand. I am perhaps unusual in being completely bemused by the way people find "Social Media" of any use at all, consequently I am just as peeved by Facebook taking over Whatsapp.

  • Albin Foro May 24, 2017 Link to comment

    An accurate list, though I think Glass has a future as an enterprise fieldwork / military / law enforcement and medical hands free augmented reality platform. But really, Google's biggest fail has been to get control of Android security and OS updates - leaving users to stupid finger-pointing about whether to blame OEMs or telcos for unacceptable delays or completely unavailable improvements. Google should have anticipated from the start, kept control of Android, and developed it along the lines Microsoft and Apple pioneered. The current approach of haphazardly identifying some OS features as "apps" and fixing those is sloppy and inconsistent, leaves users behind and sells iPhones.

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