Google is certainly the world’s greatest tech giant, with products such as YouTube, Gmail, Chrome, and Google Search synonymous with the internet. But this does not mean the company is immune to failure. Following is a look at just a few of the company’s many failed products.
Google Plus is one of the company’s more high-profile failures. The social media platform emerged at a time when Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tumblr were already rather popular. Nevertheless, the platform saw 90 million users within a year of launch.
So, what went wrong?
For one, the circle system used by Google Plus was complex and far from user-friendly. The process of creating separate circles for family and friends did not appeal to most users who wanted a simpler solution.
Google also had to deal with the fallout from security flaws, discovering in late 2018 that the personal data from 52.5 million user accounts had been leaking for at least three years. A Google Plus app was also ignored for the most part, with the company only developing an app after it became clear that Facebook and Twitter were using mobile to their advantage.
By that stage, it was too late. Google Plus was finally shut down in April 2019.
Google Web Accelerator
Google Web Accelerator was launched in 2005 to speed up page load times on a user’s computer.
The software was riddled with bugs from the outset, preventing YouTube videos from playing and embedding sensitive personal information in page requests. Google Web Accelerator also tended to retrieve unwanted webpage content and killed webmail sessions as soon as the user logged in.
Google ceased providing support for the software in January 2008.
Before Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, the company released its own video platform called Google Video.
Ultimately, Google Video was unable to attract users from YouTube which was starting to gather momentum during the mid-2000s. What’s more, Google Video was a very basic video player that didn’t solve a user problem.
For a large company with significant resources, it was simply easier for Google to acquire YouTube and shut down its own platform.
Google Answers allowed users to pay a researcher to answer a question they had, with Google taking a percentage of the fee.
Though the fee was typically around $2.50, platforms such as Yahoo! Answers and Quora meant users could find the information for free elsewhere. Interestingly, Google Answers was also competing against Google’s own free search engine.
The service was closed down after approximately 4.5 years.
Knol, an arbitrary term denoting a “unit of knowledge”, was Google’s response to Wikipedia.
Knol was supposed to feature user-generated articles on a variety of topics and even used the same font as Wikipedia. However, the platform failed to gain traction and was shut down in 2012.
While Google recognized the importance of creating an accessible knowledge repository, it did not understand the community aspect that made Wikipedia a success. Contributors to Knol who wanted to make edits were at the mercy of the so-called “expert” who wrote the article. This resulted in users uploading duplicate articles instead of trying to improve existing pieces – a fundamental strength of Wikipedia.
Google also allowed article submitters to earn money through their content through advertising. Inevitably, this attracted users with nefarious intentions to the platform.
- Google’s most successful products are synonymous with the internet. But the company has certainly had its fair share of failures. The social media network Google Plus is perhaps the most significant.
- Google Video was another failure because it did not solve an identified user problem. Google Answers was shut down because it competed with free question-answer services such as Yahoo! Answers and Google’s own search engine.
- Knol was a Wikipedia-esque knowledge site that also failed to gain traction. In developing Knol, Google did not understand the community aspect of Wikipedia that made it so successful.
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