Google's Biggest Flops

Brittney Barrett  |

 Google (GOOG) is generally regarded as a model company. The second most visited site on the web with a share price of over $600, there are few in the position to criticize the path that Google has taken to success. It’s true enough that the internet Goliath that has made  minimal mistakes on its climb to search engine dominance.  This is a true enough statement, but while it succeeded in usurping the search engine market from other competitors, it has also attempted to branch out in areas of new media, from its Twitter copycat Google Buzz to its Facebook imitator Google+.

Not all of Google’s plans to expand its brand to other branches of technology have been successful though. Just ask Apple’s Steve Jobs about it. In his posthumous autobiography written by Walter Isaacson, the account of the meeting between Google's CEO Larry Page and Steve Jobs led to a discussion about the company’s attempt to occupy too many spaces at once.

“The main thing I stressed was focus. Figure out what Google wants to be when it grows up. It's now all over the map. What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they're dragging you down. They're turning you into Microsoft. They're causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.”

Jobs seemed to have been right and in late October, likely after the flop of Google+ the company reiterated its increased attention to focus on its blog.

“It's interesting to note that focus is one of the three principles of Google’s new design,” it reads "With the design changes in the coming weeks and months, we're bringing forward the stuff that matters to you and getting all the other clutter out of your way," the company explained. Focus is also one of the reasons why Google closed Google Labs, discontinued Google Desktop, Google Pack, Google Health, and many other services.”

So now that Google’s lackluster attempts are a thing of the past, it seems time to revisit their brief and unimportant lives.

This program which was available from 2002 to 2009 was a search engine for Catalogs. For such smart people, it seems strange that the executives wouldn’t have realized the only people catalogs are popular with are those with a tenuous grasp of the way the internet works.

Remember when the world needed another video streaming site exactly the same as the last? No? Well Google saw the invisible void when it began Google video in 2005. The program was discontinues in 2007 when the company realized Youtube was doing just fine. This is arguably one of their first forays in copying a web 2.0 sensation.

Before they were adopting Web 2.0 ideas, Google attempted to take a page out of Apple’s book. The company created a version of its homepage that shared similarities with the Mac OS design. This died after a single day.

Google Wave was supposed to be the new email, combining the traditional elements of email with chat and other features. Users as it turned out, were just fine with the existing gmail, which permits chat and a variety of other features in a more streamlined and easier to understand format. Sometimes bells and whistles are unwanted. Google gave it between 2009-2010 to catch on before retiring the program.

Google bought Dodgeball in 2005 after being sold on the idea of a mobile social networking site. Its founder though felt that he could make it better on his own and went on to create foursquare while dodgeball was left in the dust.

Google Notebook enabled people to join clipped URLs from the web and free-form notes into documents they could share and publish. Users seemed to prefer the more simplistic offerings of Google Docs.

To be honest, the news that Google acquired Aardvark in 2010 comes as quite a surprise. Apparently, it was an experiment in a new type of social search, which allowed people answer each other’s questions. It sounds as though it was something along the lines of Yahoo Answers. As of September of 2011, Google said Aardvark will be closing but that they’ll “continue to work on tools that enable people to connect and discover richer knowledge about the world.”

Google purchased Jaiku, named to sound like Haiku, a Twitter type microblogging service in 2009. After being poorly received, the company launched Google buzz which reportedly violated some privacy issues. The buzz about the program was short lived and after a strong launch, it fizzled fast.

Perhaps it’s unfair to call this a failure because of how many people signed up and have accounts, but Google+ does seem like a flop. People are pretty attached to their Facebook accounts and the thousands of friends some have collected since 2004. Asking them to subscribe to two-time wasting social networking sites instead of one might have just been too much. Google + failed to improve on the technology of facebook, at least from an initial perusal and even those who snapped up accounts soon abandoned them.

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