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Here's why Google kills so many of its projects

Google Reader
Google Reader (Image credit: Android Central)

There have been a lot of words written on the internet about the products and services Google has killed off. There is almost certainly a service or a piece of hardware Google sent to the grave that meaningfully affected you. I know I have, both as part of my job and on my own time.

While there are websites that only exist to tell us about things Google has killed, there's very little talk about why Google does it. Google, like Microsoft (which has killed its fair share of things) or Apple (ditto on the killing), wants you to "like" it as a company. If you dislike a certain company you stop using its products. It doesn't kill off anything without what it thinks is a good reason. Google simply has more products or kills them before they can lose enough money to affect the bottom line.

That's the thing: Google may have different reasons for halting different products, but one thing in common every time is a consideration for the bottom line. Google is not a charity and exists only to make as much money as it can. While it may have started as a cool idea in a garage somewhere, Google is now one of the largest and most valuable companies in the world. The people in charge want to keep it that way.

Chromecast Audio

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The scale problem

Google is too large for everyone to work together on everything and is split into a lot of smaller, more manageable teams. These groups each have a central focus and sometimes that focus changes or is merged into its parent. Look at Inbox as an example. You may have used Inbox and loved it, but it's dead and now you have to use another Gmail client. While but while it died as a standalone app, the idea and the implementation is still alive and baked into the Gmail apps for Android, iOS, and the web. Some of Inbox is still there, at least in spirit — the parts that Google thinks best take advantage of its strengths.

Good ideas never die at Google; they're just merged into apps that make money.

The same can be said for other apps. Google News and Weather combined with Google Reader to bring us Google News (opens in new tab). You still have your local news settings and curated lists of national and tech news but it's in a different package. This is because Google spends a lot of time experimenting and trying to find a way to give us what we want in the most efficient way possible — and serve ads as efficiently as possible, too.

Some of these experiments die, like Google+. Others move to a full-fledged money-making product, like Google Fi (formerly Project Fi) or Google Assistant (formerly Google Now). We just don't like the changes and our first instinct is to lament that Google killed a thing we liked to use.

How Google innovates

Google tez

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

These dead products and iterations are really just a byproduct of how Google innovates. Google likes to move quickly to compete in a specific way, then take the time to ask questions like how it can do it better once it's already started. Google has very stiff competition from Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft for almost every one of its potential moneymaking products and services. It can't afford to move slowly and take the time to make the "final" decision and stick with it. Google likes to throw out ideas and see if they stick.

Google Tez was wildly successful so everything good about it became Google Pay.

Google Pay is a recent example that comes to mind. Competition from Apple and Amazon is fierce when it comes to payments, and Google fell behind because it didn't act quickly enough. One of the things it threw at the proverbial wall was Tez, an India-only payment system that got very popular very quickly. Google has since shuttered Google Tez and turned it into Google Pay.

Google Tez was a success, but Google also is quick to kill a product that it thinks will never become successful. Most of these are services and products you've never heard of like Google Fusion Tables or specialized rack servers (opens in new tab) for internal enterprise search engines. If something doesn't create revenue and there is no way to morph it into a thing that does, Google pulls the plug.

Google Nexus Q

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Killing products and innovation goes hand in hand in other ways, too. All you need to do is look at Google's strategy on chat to see that. Hangouts, Allo, and Google Talk are dead or dying.

You never know what Google will kill next.

Google Messages is trying to take the best parts of each and bundle it all up into one Google Chat app. Will it be successful? Nobody knows, not even Google. It only knows that it needs to keep trying until it finds the right formula, no matter how long it takes or how many different apps it has to go through.

Will Google kill [my favorite service] next?

People feel real anxiety about Google's product lineup, especially those on the margins of profitability or the ones the company considers experiments. It's five years into its Pixel project that, despite building some of the best Android phones, it's likely not making much money; could Google kill off its smartphone lineup? Unlikely at this point, but it's certainly something I as a Pixel fan think about.

People are anxious about what Google will kill next, and that feeling is justified.

What about Stadia? Google's been at the cloud gaming platform for a year and is attracting AAA games and signing deals with major publishers, but there's still a lingering suspicion that, unlike Xbox and PlayStation, Google could pull the plug at any time. We've heard from game developers that they're wary of investing too much time into Stadia not just because the return isn't there yet, but because Google's history of killing off unsuccessful projects may leave them in the hole in a few years, or that audiences may feel the same way and just choose to avoid the platform altogether.

The most recent bout of murder, the Nest Secure, led to thousands of people complaining that they're left with an expensive piece of hardware that won't be supported for much longer. And after a long, slow expiration, Google Play Music played its last notes this week, even though its replacement, YouTube Music, still hasn't inherited all of its features. It's a mess.

And Google isn't done killing products; you never know what will be next on the chopping block. Outside of the core products like Search, Google Ads, and Gmail, every single product is fair game if Google thinks it can do it better.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

33 Comments
  • Google recently killed the best service they had, Play Music, and as far as I can tell it was done so they can increase profits.
  • It wasn't all that popular though really. Apple aren't putting much focus into iTunes either. Because Streaming is increasing but Paying for MP3s isn't. That and YouTube has always been a much bigger brand. Can see it being annoying for those who used it though, was good.
  • I'm so bummed they got rid of GPM; I used it until the very end. YT Music just doesn't compare.
  • Agreed! I'm not happy that Google Play Music is dead. As terrible as this sounds, Apple Music is significantly better than YouTube Music.
  • Yeah Google cancelling GPM gave me the chance to look at the competition. Now I'm finally a Spotify subscriber. I won't be using YTM. Thanks Google for giving me a reason to raise my head and look around for alternatives. That should help Googles bottom line. They're heading the same direction as Microsoft.
  • This YTM change drove me away from Google to Spotify. No increase in profits if you drive your customers away and make them reluctant to ever come back. This is why mega conglomerates are bad for consumers. Spotify has one business goal and must succeed at that business goal. I trust Spotify will continue because what else do they have? This focus makes Spotify continue to improve and develop a solid product a person can trust will very likely always be around. Yet if Spotify did happen to disappear, people would find an alternative. But with Google, cutting one product means people lose trust in your other offerings. Sadly, if they do this enough, they'll end up like Microsoft who can't get traction on any new product no matter how good it is because consumers (and developers) don't trust it will be supported long term.
  • Agree, if Google wants profits they should understand why they drive consumers away from their products, not sh!tcan them and try something else equally lame.
  • I was a frequent user of GPM. YTM is such a mess that I've only listened to a couple of songs on it, and both times I wondered why it didn't sound so good, then I remembered "Oh yeah, this is YouTube".
  • It's understandable that they don't want to lose money, but at this point they're losing something more important; customers trust. There are people who are avoiding Google products and services because they don't have faith that they'll exist in 6 months time, and that lack of faith is justified. I'm also convinced that no one at Google talks to anyone else at Google. Everything's siloed to the point there's no consistency at all.
  • You just described why I don't buy Microsoft products anymore and why the Surface Duo will never be a runaway success. It's going to take years of supporting that device and likely 3 generational upgrades before people will trust Microsoft not to kill it off. Now Google's doing the same. If you want loyalty Google, you also have to be loyal.
  • I wish Google would keep Hangouts. It's very useful to me. I have a lot of friends and family members who use Hangouts. Chat seems like a very poor substitute.
  • Hangouts has slowly been killed off for years. Fair enough but you've had a lot of time to migrate to even better services. Hangouts was never popular out of it's sizeable niche.
  • Find me a service that works on a browser within gmail, can send sms, place voice calls using my Google voice number and video chat on any piece of hardware I own. I'm still looking but would love some insight on these better services.
  • I love Hangouts for the exact same reasons. You hit the nail right on the head !!
  • Personally I don't see a benefit putting Instant Messaging in an email client. I thought Hangouts no longer supported SMS. Google Voice has only ever been USA only sadly :(. Google Messages + WhatsApp has far more users. Ultimately it's the user base that trumps them all. Gotta be able to message people right. Maybe if you don't travel it's different but if you do WhatsApp is essential. Like the continued use of SMS as a primary messaging platform Hangouts was only ever popular in North America. Here in The UK it's only WhatsApp really. I suspect Hangouts is a better platform to WhatsApp but I've never known anyone to use it outside of North America. For me it was always one of the Google bloat apps like Allo and Duo you uninstall/disable. It's probably why eventually it will go.
  • Exactly!! There is no service that matches Hangouts that I know of. Having to use a QR code to use Messages is horrible. Signal is cross platform but there is no gmail integration and GROUP video chat nor GVoice integration. Let's not forget Inbox. This article says Google integrated what parts of Inbox that was successful into Gmail. That's bullsh#t! The most popular feature in Inbox was bundling. Gmail still doesn't bundle and the very reason I've switched to Edison Mail. I could be wrong but I think Google's biggest problem with killing apps and services is they don't make a real effort to learn what consumers actually like.
  • The issue is Hangouts COULD have been the ENTIRE messaging solution. Granted it had a few rough edges, but all of the customer complaints could have been addressed. And if Google simply made Hangouts the default, required install on EVERY Android device there would be an instant platform, covering millions upon millions of devices(within 1 years cycle). Instead we continue to get the frantic schizophrenic ramblings of a company that can't get messaging right for a messaging app.
  • But it wasn't. Move on. Google Messages as it's the default SMS app on millions of phones is already proving to be more popular. Time will tell if the Google Chat RCS side proves popular. I suspect it will in North America, but the writing is already on the wall outside of this market.
  • He's right. Hangouts didn't get a sizable portion of the market because Google didn't make it a default app. People didn't even know of Hangouts unless they used Google+ or someone told them. The app wasn't even preloaded. Google bungled that. Yes, your are correct that Google Messages will succeed, but not because it's a better service (which it isn't), but because Google this time, is doing the same thing Apple did to make iMessage a success by forcing it down people throats in making it the default preloaded messaging app. But now, in order to use Messages on a browser you have to scan a freaking QR code and that will shut off if I turn my phone off or the battery dies. Google is the dumbest/smart company out there when it comes to marketing and implementation. Its 2020 and they are still using the throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks method. They can reduce the need of doing that is they just simply read consumer comments. Amongst the tech companies, Google seems to be the least interested in consumer opinions and reviews.
  • As much as I purchase only Pixel phones for the since the PIxel 2, they need to step up their game in the Google apps that I use. Inbox and Play Music were hard to let go for me. Focus on what is left and make it better.
  • I wonder if Google Inbox was ever that popular? Like Google Wave it was so ahead of it's time. Ironically Slack and Teams have now made what Wave was essential.
  • Inbox was fantastic. I found an alternative. Edison Email is a good replacement. It has a sort of bundling. It has bundles for packages, travel, subscriptions, bills & receipts, and entertainment. Plus, you can add custom categories. Also, you can see all your email accounts from the same screen. No switching like in Gmail.
  • Chromecast Audio was unique, but I suspect it got killed as it was too good. Despite not be direct competitors they want you to be buying Next speakers. Luckily it's underlying protocol wasn't killed and they're dirt cheap on eBay. Picked up a spare in case mine breaks. Use it with my amp every day, would be a waste to buy a new amp just to get Chromecast Audio built-in. And helped by the fact the Nest Mini has no AUX Out so you can't easily replicate what Chromecast Audio does.
  • It's not just Google. My Pioneer amp had Spotify Connect built in. It was a primary reason I picked a Pioneer. About a year after purchase they removed support and about 3 months later it stopped working. It's there on the current models. It's just a firmware fix away. But I was left using a Chromecast audio.
  • They are killing off free phone calls to UK numbers from Google Home in December and cloud print. I use both and they will end in December. Cloud print was my favourite service as I could send things to print at home from anywhere. They recently gave us free Stadia hardware. I like the controller and have bought a couple of games due to getting £10 credit as well. Baldurs Gate 3 isn't available on XBox One so that is a great coup and the other games were cheapish, but I do wonder if they will kill the service making those purchases a waste of money.
  • Yeah Phone Calls in Google Nest (what a dumb rename) is sweet. As Google Nest only supports Duo I never got to use it much though, because phone signal is still so poor nationally. Always have to fall back to WhatsApp calls. I expect it wasn't popular enough and Google pay for those call of course. Being able to print when you're not near the printer must be niche to be fair. I'd rather set myself a reminder to print it when I got to the place. There maybe privacy concerns leaving paper at a printer.
  • YouTube music library organization is but one example... If I click on Artists, then select an artist, I should then see the albums I have downloaded..... Oh no, I see a hot mess of individual songs instead!
  • Yeah it's terrible ain't it. That annoys me too. I had it for 3 months free. Ultimately never cancelled my Spotify subscription as it's much better. It's interesting though how North Americans use such different services to Europeans. Maybe because Spotify was entrenched in Europe a long time before it arrived to The Americas.
  • The thing that gets me is that for all the resources and supposedly smart people over there who pass silly interview processes is that many of their services are poorly thought out. YTM, mess. Messaging platforms have been a clusterfk since it's inception and that's a service that is very important to people and could be a huge success. Do people who design these services ever use them and re-evaluate and refine? Google shoots itself in the foot because people like me hesitate using some of their services because we can't trust that it'll be there long term and don't have confidence it'll become a refined tool. We're a beta test much and invest our time in integrating their services into our lives only to have them pull the plug. I sometimes wonder why I use them at all, Android's fractured ecosystem is reflective of their skittish trends on the strategic side.
  • All agreed. It looks like Google is finally sticking with Google Messages + Google Meet/Chat at least. I read Google Duo may get the chop, as soon as Google Meet was opened up to consumers there doesn't seem much benefit.
  • Google can argue that they cancel things so quickly because of the bottom line but considering that they are one of the wealthiest companies in the world they can afford to take more risks. Imagine if Apple had only looked at the bottom line when taking a risk on Jobs and the iphone. What if 3M had decided that gorilla glass was a waste of time and decided to trash all of their product before cell phones took off? Google should have the same attitude. This also sends a message to consumers that Google won't stand behind their products long term. I've had the chance to buy several Google products over the past few years and I've turned them down simply because I don't know how long they'll be supported.
  • And *that* is EXACTLY why the ONLY Google product I've continued to use is the Android OS! And we all know the Android OS is not their brainchild – and perhaps the reason it's been so successful. Oh, I'll definitely play with their offerings, but I cannot afford to waste my time and money to invest in ANYTHING Google – as a user and a small-business owner. Time literally is money for us kind and a resource too costly to waste on a company whose products offer no longevity for both hardware and software. I continue to use many products (paid and free) from other companies (large and small) that I've been using for quite a long time and never feared that that I'd lose support.
  • All Google has managed to do, is confuse and abandon loyal customers. They change apps so often (e.g. chat, music, ect) that they never get the opportunity to launch. As many have stated, Hangouts is large and by far the greatest chat app, and it had low utilization due to non-preloaded software and inter-competition apps made by Google. Play Music was also ten times better than Youtube Music. They are constantly changing apps, preventing adoption. And now, they done this so many times, that people are starting to refuse to invest in Google projects. Why build your ecosystem around a google app, if history suggests it will be dropped in a year or so?? And this is double a concern for physical hardware. I REALLY LOVE the idea of Stadia, but I'm not investing a dime into that gaming concept. Why purchase games on a system that will lose support two years later? I'd rather continue my catalog with XBOX or PS; companies that are devoted to that service. The Nest secure was another system I was looking into. I didn't ultimately go that route as I was concerned they may not support it at a later date... and surprise surprise; they're dropping it now. Google needs to centralize it's projects with Apps; one chat app, one music app (ect) preloaded on Android phones with the option to delete, and stick it out through the long haul. People will adopt the product/app once they feel it is a mainstay.