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Nov 6, 2008

Google's Biggest Blunders [:(]

As Google Inc completes the first 10 years of its 300-year plan to organise all the world's information, are its ambitions compatible with its famous motto, "Don't be evil"? That is the question author Randall Stross seeks to answer in "Planet Google: One Company's Audacious Plan to Organise Everything We Know".

Google's smarts pushed it ahead of Yahoo Inc as the world's favorite search engine. Its genius was working out how to make real money from this success -- by targeting advertisements based on a user's search.

Targeted advertisements helped propel it from a tiny startup to its historic high valuation in November 2007 of $225 billion -- surpassing for a time established names like IBM and Cisco Systems.

However, for all its success, Google also has its share of products and services which can't be termed ‘roaring successes’, many of these were in fact quietly discontinued. Here's a look into eight such products and services.

Google X-File: Google X

This is one of the Google's project which last for a mere day. Launched by Google Labs on March 15 2005, the service was withdrawn next day itself. It had the traditional Google search bar interface, however, it was made to look like the Dock user interface feature of Apple's Mac OS X operating system.

Google never released any official statement on why the project was shut down. Here is the Google X announcement from their blog:

Today is an amazing day: A small idea -- a fun late-night coding jaunt to help me learn Javascript & DHTML -- has just launched on Google Labs. I never expected it to make it as far as it has when I wrote it a month ago, especially since my “real” job is working on Keyhole, where I’m having the time of my life taking our cool 3D mapping application and putting the power of Google behind it. It’s fulfilling to have the opportunity to reach the audience we always dreamed of when we started Keyhole five years ago, and that by itself is absolute coolness.

And now there’s Google X, which came about because I wanted a quick fun way to access all of Google’s services. I gave it to a few friends in the company, who gave it to their friends, some posted it on their blogs, others sent it around on mailing lists, and it eventually made its way to Marissa Mayer, who liked it enough to say, when do you want to put it up on Labs? So after some spit and polish from some enthusiastic Googlers and the keen eye of the UI team, Google X is here. I hope all of you enjoy it - especially Mac users, who I’m sure will appreciate its lineage.

Google Catalog

This is one of Google's products, which possibly had the longest beta in the company's history. Google Catalog has been in a perpetual state of beta since 2002. The Catalog search was in fact overhauled in 2005.

According to the information on the Google Catalog Beta site, "Google Catalogs helps you browse and search merchant-provided catalogs right on your computer. You can flip through any catalog to find what interests you, or simply type in what you're looking for, and you'll find every place that your search term appears in the catalog. If you're not sure what catalog to look in, just search all of the catalogs in our index."

Google Video Player

Google video player was another way to view videos on the company's online service Google video. Supporting Mac OS X and Windows, it could play back files encoded in Google's own media file format (.gvi) and supported playlists in "Google Video Pointer" (.gvp) format.

The company discontinued the player sometime in the second half of 2007. The options to download Google video media player as well as to download videos in GVI format were removed.

The Google Video player was a 4.5 MB file that could only play .GVI and .GVP files (Google proprietary formats). The software was part of the Google pack unveiled by Larry Page at CES 2006.

Google Answers

Yea, Google too had launched its `Answer' service which was discontinued in 2006.

Here's what the text on the site says: We're sorry, but Google Answers has been retired, and is no longer accepting new questions. Search or browse the existing Google Answers index by using the search box above or the category links below.

According to analysts here's something, here's something where Yahoo beat Google. It is widely believed that, Google Answers launched in 2002, fell prey to the rising success of Yahoo Answers.

Google Coupons?

Many analysts wonder if Google Coupons too form a part of Google ‘fiasco’ list. On 15 August 2006, Google announced printable online coupons on Google Maps.

According to the company announcement, "When searching for local information, discount coupons from businesses are now displayed on Google Maps search results and business listing pages. These coupons can be printed out directly from a computer and redeemed at a physical store location of a neighborhood or local business. For users of Google Maps, coupons provide additional relevant business information and ultimately contribute to a better local search experience. For businesses, coupons provide another way to reach customers online."

Though a nifty idea, there are few who have seen it. "As an avid user of Google Maps, in the two years Google Coupons has been available I've never come across one when using a map," commented Tom Spring of PC World in an article. The article in fact compares Google Coupons to White Rhinos, which few have seen.

Book Scan

A big setback grew out of its attempt to scan the world's 32 million books, which resulted in a lawsuit over copyright. Stross also recalls the anger of Google co-founder Eric Schmidt when CNET published personal information about him it discovered in a Google search. The company said it would stop cooperating with CNET journalists for a year but relented a month or so later.

Let Facebook steal the show!

Just as Microsoft Corp watched Google capture the lucrative search business, Google in turn allowed privately-owned Facebook to run away with social networking, notes Stross. Introduced in 2004, the social networking site is a big hit in Brazil, but in the US, Orkut has lagged in popularity behind Facebook and MySpace.

In fact Orkut is missing in the latest Hitwise report, where it ranks Top 5 social networking websites by marketshare of US Internet visits. The top 5 social networks according to this report are MySpace, Facebook, myYearbook, Tagged and Bebo.

Google video clip service

Google also never quite perfected its video clips service and ended up paying $1.65 billion to buy YouTube and is still struggling to sell ads and spin profits from the site.
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