Why Google retires some products

You’ve probably witnessed one of Google’s spring cleanings when it retires a dozen or so popular services. Ever since co-founder Sergey Brin took the CEO role from Eric Schmidt, who is now Google’s chairman, the company has been dropping less popular services at a rapid clip. iGoogle? Gone. The ill-fated Wave? Killed off. Wonder Wheel? That too.

Newsflash: even Google has a finite amount of resources so some features inevitably get thrown under the bus along the way. Google’s Matt Cutts in the above clip lays out his company’s approach to managing products and explains the decision making process which leads Google to retire some service whilst continuing to invest in others…

The video is in response to a question by Chicago-based Aaron Friedman, who asked:

Matt, we often hear about Google “killing off” products. Why do you guys do this? Are you just being mean or “out to get” us SEOs? Sounds like there is something bigger going on. Could you please elaborate?

I like the part where Matt likens Google’s process to an exploration of sorts:

We wanna try out new things. Unless you’re trying things out, like if you’re trying to skii and you never fall then you’re not really pushing yourself hard enough.

One obvious problem with this approach: Google is now this Internet behemoth and whatever next service it comes up with, millions upon millions of people are going to try it out (hint: Google+) and potentially grow dependent on it.

That’s also millions upon millions of disgruntled users if the firm pulls the plug on the service.

But Google is not just a consumer play.

The search giant is fighting Microsoft for enterprise supremacy with its affordable online productivity suite, Google Apps.

So when huge companies take the bait and adopt Apps, they don’t expect that on a random day even the tiniest part of Apps might disappear because Google figured it’s no longer worth the effort.

This happens a lot in this industry and it would be unfair to only point the blaming finger at Google’s direction. Of course, Microsoft was quick to exploit the drawbacks of Google’s fast-paced nature with this funny ad.


My favorite part:

Q: And you still think this is ready to roll out?

A: How else are we gonna know what features to keep and what to kill?

I’m curious: did you use any of the services Google killed so far?

I was really excited about Weave becoming this interactive, real-time email replacement, so much that I invested significant amount of time and energy becoming a Wave expert.

Imagine my disappointment when the news arrived of Google dropping Wave because it “has not seen the user adoption we would have liked”.