For a long time, Google has been known for starting a bunch of different projects, testing out new products and then seeing what ultimately worked. This strategy has changed recently, as AndroidPIT Germany editor Hans-Georg stated recently. Because of this risk-taking, Google’s history also includes many projects which failed miserably. Sometimes the public simply wasn’t interested, and occasionally an idea was doomed to fail at its inception. It’s time to take a look into the past and ruminate on Google’s failed projects.

Google+ and other social experiments

Some may cry out at this headline and refuse to accept that Google+ was a failure. But, as a fan of this network for many years, I believe I’m allowed to make such a statement.

I was euphoric when the network was introduced in 2011. Other Google fans desperately wanted an invitation to this new and initially closed social network. It was supposed to be an alternative to Facebook and many wanted to test the concept of circles as an alternative to friends. But is the network now where it wanted to be? Until recently, Google had frantically tried to run all of its services via Google+, and even YouTube was affected. Active users of Google+ thought this was great, but everybody else cursed the idea. Even after all these years, I still have the feeling that the system was a space for tech enthusiasts only and that hardly a single company devoted itself to the network. This can of course be spun into a positive light, but for the masses, Google+ was anything but a success.

Incidentally, Google+ wasn’t the company’s first stride into social networking. Remember Google Buzz and Google Orkut? Both were officially abandoned by Google, and I have the unfortunate feeling that Google+ will suffer the same fate.

Google Orkut may have escaped your attention. It functioned as a network to find old and new friends. Google Orkut would recommend new contacts for you based on the interests that you indicated. However, the network only found success in Brazil and was ended in 2014. Google Buzz met a similar end. With this network, you could leave notes on Google Maps for all users to see. But often, people only used this function to post the inane comment ‘First!!’.

To end this section with my favorite quote: the question isn’t if Google+ will be terminated, but when.

Google Glass provided little transparency

To portray Google Glass as a completely failed project would be somewhat unfair. It was clearly an experimental project from the outset and Google surely didn’t expect to achieve wide commercial success with it. And in any case, we need certain projects to advance technology. The Google Glass project was officially announced in June 2012 and received a lot of attention in the tech world. We hadn’t seen such a product before and were naturally excited, or at least curious.

Google Glass never achieved success and only a few developer-edition models were ultimately sold. For one, the glasses were simply too big. As someone who doesn’t wear glasses, I would never wear such a product on my face only to use a few limited functions.

Consumers are extremely cautious with data protection, which is another problem with Glass. In this regard, Google Glass raised many concerns. How do I know that I’m not being filmed? Or that the microphone isn’t running without my knowledge?

On top of this was the price. The beta version, called the Explorer Edition, was intended for developers and came with a hefty $1,500 price tag. It was available from February 2013. What the glasses would have cost in the shop remains a secret, as it never got this far. Google made several announcements about an official launch, but the program was abandoned in January 2015.

As mentioned at the start, Google likes to try all the possibilities. But success is ultimately determined by us, the consumers. Google Glass was likely ahead of its time, and that it was unsuccessful is not a huge surprise. Companies like Google or Microsoft certainly haven’t given up on augmented reality glasses. Recently with the HoloLens, another manufacturer went a completely different direction. We’re excited for the next consumer products to find their way to us.

Google Latitude lost its way

Always want to know where your family members or friends are? Google Latitude offered this feature, which is still available through Google Maps today. So why include this in our article? Google wasn’t clear on where to go with this. Initially offered as a standalone option within Google Maps, it was later exported to Google+ only to be reintegrated into Google Maps recently. This was frustrating for all users who needed to adjust to changing features, and also re-accept the terms and conditions.

Still, there was a lot of benefit from this feature at the beginning. The widget was very convenient, but this changed with its integration into Google+. We may be guilty here of whining about first world problems, but such a service should be easy to both install and operate. I’m not even an Apple fan, but I have to admit that ‘Find my Friends’ on iOS is somewhat more practical. Google has the advantage that Google Maps can be run on both iOS and Android and thus reach more people. But the general population is likely unaware that such an option exists, and that anyone with a current version of Google Maps can use it.

Hangouts and co.

The story of Google’s messengers is almost more confusing than Latitude. Not only did the location of the service often change, but also the type of implementation.

So it all began with Google Talk, which was integrated into Gmail. This messenger used the open XMPP protocol. As a result, you could message users of any other service using this protocol, not just Google Talk users. A relative of mine was always impressed because he had his own server at home and could nevertheless communicate comfortably with me. A downside was that group chats didn’t function well and you’d receive notifications on all devices.

Naturally, Google wanted to move everyone to its own social network, and so arrived the Google+ messenger. This only worked on devices with Google+ and didn’t run on PC browsers. With it, it became more comfortable to start group chats and notifications also felt slightly better.

But Google didn’t stop there and created Hangouts in 2013. This messenger app combined messenger with video chat, and even had the functionality to make phone calls in the US. This was a perfect solution for me. Thanks to online storage, I no longer needed to worry about data security when I switched smartphones. Also, the service was compatible across platforms, and worked on my smartphone, tablet and computer. But instead of developing the messenger further and implementing user feedback, Google instead threw another messenger app onto the market in 2016. 

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