Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Google to kill off iGoogle & other services

Only days after the Google I/O conference the search giant has gone into a major spring clean and dusting the shelves with products it deems are redundant. Set for the chop are iGoogle, Google Video, Chatback, Google Mini, and the Symbian Search App.

Google Video is unlikely to be missed. Uploads to the site were stopped some time ago and users were given the facility to migrate material to YouTube.

Google Talk Chatback, a text chat widget for Web publishers, is also being consigned to the bin. Google is now pushing publishers who want that function to the Meebo bar, from the instant message company Google acquired a month ago.

Google Mini and the Symbian Search App will be the least missed of all. Google Mini, a hardware search appliance for enterprises that launched in 2005, is also being retired though details as to whether it will be replaced by another product are sketchy.

With Android phones now overtaking all other smartphone platforms it was only a matter of time before Google dropped support to the older operating systems like Symbian. So while there will be some that will be miffed at the demise of another Google app disappearing from their Symbian device, the retirement of the Symbian Search App is likely to go by unnoticed by most people. The simple workaround is simply to to make Google the home page.

The closure of iGoogle may be missed by a great deal more people however. iGoogle surfaced in 2005 and was quickly adopted by many with a Google account as a simple and useful RSS feed aggregator.

With gadgets and feeds, the iGoogle homepage can be customised to show information relevant to each user. But now Google believes that "with modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time".

It is true that through the Chrome Web Store there are weather apps which can display conditions in different parts of the world, calendar apps which link to Google Calendar and so on. But iGoogle provides a simple interface where all this information is displayed on one screen.

As a home page it can give a quick summary of news feeds, the weather, time, date, and other data without the need to navigate to several places.

By a simple scroll on an iGoogle page one can browse the main headlines from several news organisations, weather in a number of added locations, see new email messages and even tweet via TwitterGadget.

To see the weather in one's pre-saved locations one would have to do a separate Google search. Similarly with favourite news feeds, one would have to navigate to each site separately to see the latest updates.

There are aggregators and RSS feed readers which could replace some of the above, but few if any could show the diversity of information or display it as cleanly as iGoogle [CNET / ZDNet / AFP / LATimesChannel News Asia].

The decision to retire iGoogle seems to be another example where the search giant is more interested in homing down its products to ones that make money, rather than facilitate usefulness to the user.

Last year Google Health was consigned to the bin, according to the company because of poor take-up [tvnewswatch: Google no longer cares about your health]. Power meter, a method through which Google account holders could monitor electricity consumption remotely, was also killed off. Neither were big money makers for Google, yet were useful to a great many people who had invested time and money in these projects [tvnewswatch: Google Wave to join list of retired products].

Property search within Google maps, another infrequently used, but extremely useful function was also ditched despite protests [tvnewswatch: Google closes yet more products].

As often discussed this, and previous, decisions to kill off services raises concerns for those relying on their services and those with data stored in the cloud. While Google have facilitated methods to download data from redundant services, it can be a fraught task and there are often compatibility issues in terms of adding the information to another provider.

While Google Docs/Drive, GMail, Google Calendar, Google Music, YouTube, Picasa Web and Google+ seem safe for now, there is no absolute guarantee these services will be safe in a decade's time.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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