Last week, Google quietly announced the discontinuation of some of their products. Companies do this from time to time to better focus on their more popular offerings. Apple was famous for this in 1997 when Steve Jobs returned to the company and said that Apple would focus only on four products and make them great. Yes, this is a pretty extreme example.
Google, on the other hand, makes so many software products, that people often hardly notice when they discontinue a half dozen of them. Few of us had probably ever even heard of the Google Mini search appliance. Google Video was effectively killed three years ago when the company stopped allowing video uploads to the service. So announcing that it will finally go away in August of this year may qualify this as one of the slowest product deaths of all time.
The bigger news for many of us – including yours truly – was that iGoogle would be going away. This has been my home page for years because it was a very light weight AJAX-based site that quickly displayed my RSS feeds to me. This made it a great home page because it provided a way to easily get caught up on all of the news of the day. I was subscribed to so many feeds, that I had organized them in tabs (tech news, podcasts, social media, corporate, entertainment, and so on).
iGoogle has been around since 2005. I was an early adopter and found it more to my liking than the My Yahoo service that I had been using at the time. Since it was browser-based, that meant I could get my customized feeds wherever I was; at work, at home, on my mobile devices and so on. Surprisingly, one thing that it didn’t do well was integrate with Google Reader. Feeds that I setup in Reader did not show up in iGoogle and vice versa. Considering that both of these services came from Google, I could never figure out why this was the case. While John is much more of a Reader fan, I never gravitated toward it because I thought the interface was among the most clunky I had ever come across.
Even though Google isn’t officially killing the iGoogle service until November 2013, I’ve already begun looking for replacement solutions. If you have suggestions for a good solution, feel free to leave me comments on this post.
But what troubles me the most is that I don’t feel like I can trust Google to commit to a service or platform. What happens if they decide to kill Google Reader? They already angered many Reader users last year when they killed the sharing functionality in the service. Google’s product strategies are a little too ‘soup du jour’ for my liking. Remember Google Wave? Exactly.
Right now, they seem to want to drive traffic towards their latest social media platform, Google Plus. I suspect the move to kill iGoogle has something to do with this. The problem is, can we really trust that Google Plus is going to be around for long? Most people that I know tried it out a year ago when it was launched and have long since abandoned it.
I suppose you could argue that these are all free services, so how can I really complain? You get what you pay for, after all. OK. But I agreed to give them all kinds of rights to use, index and sell information about my usage of their services so this is not entirely one-sided.
Should I start worrying about my Feedburner feeds? Will Google Calendar go away if they decide it would be better served as a feature in Google+ or GMail? Probably not. But there’s always tomorrow.