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Google shuts down Aardvark and 9 other products

September 2, 2011 |  4:01 pm

Aardvark.com

Google Chief Executive Larry Page's push to narrow the tech giant's focus and streamline operations continued on Friday with the announcement that the company was shutting down 9 projects and Aardvark, a side company that built a social search site.

"Technology improves, people's needs change, some bets pay off and others don't," said Alan Eustace, a senior vice president at Google, in a blog post titled "a fall spring-clean."

Eustace said some of the products would be killed off, while others will be merged into existing products as features. The employees working on the affected companies and projects will be reassigned to new positions at Google.

"This will make things much simpler for our users, improving the overall Google experience," he said. "It will also mean we can devote more resources to high-impact products -- the ones that improve the lives of billions of people. All the Googlers working on these projects will be moved over to higher-impact products. As for our users, we'll communicate directly with them as we make these changes, giving sufficient time to make the transition and enabling them to take their data with them."

Page announced the company-wide refocusing in July when Google pulled the plug on Google Labs, a website that let users test out new products with which engineers were experimenting. Google Labs was where Gmail and Google Docs got started and was at one time an important piece of the company.

The Google CEO and co-founder described the moves in a statement made during a Google earnings call as as putting "more wood behind fewer arrows."

Last month, Google also shut down Slide, a side company that made social apps mostly for Facebook, MySpace and Apple's iOS. Most of Slide's employees were rolled into other parts of Google, but Slide's founder, Max Levchin, who is well known as a top engineer with a solid understanding of social networking, left the company.

Eustace said that while Google is axing some companies it has purchased over the years and ending other products, it won't keep Google from being creative.

"We've never been afraid to try big, bold things, and that won't change," he said. "We'll continue to take risks on interesting new technologies with a lot of potential."

Here's Eustace's rundown of the companies and projects in Google that have been shuttered:

  • Aardvark: Aardvark was a start-up we acquired in 2010. An experiment in a new kind of social search, it helped people answer each other's questions. While Aardvark will be closing, we'll continue to work on tools that enable people to connect and discover richer knowledge about the world.
  • Desktop: In the last few years, there's been a huge shift from local to cloud-based storage and computing, as well as the integration of search and gadget functionality into most modern operating systems. People now have instant access to their data, whether online or offline. As this was the goal of Google Desktop, the product will be discontinued on September 14, including all the associated APIs, services, plugins, gadgets and support.
  • Fast Flip: Fast Flip was started to help pioneer news content browsing and reading experiences for the web and mobile devices. For the past two years, in collaboration with publishers, the Fast Flip experiment has fueled a new approach to faster, richer content display on the web. This approach will live on in our other display and delivery tools.
  • Google Maps API for Flash: The Google Maps API for Flash was launched to provide ActionScript developers a way to integrate Google Maps into their applications. Although we're deprecating the API, we'll keep supporting existing Google Maps API Premier customers using the Google Maps API for Flash and we'll focus our attention on the JavaScript Maps API v3 going forward.
  • Google Pack: Due to the rapidly decreasing demand for downloadable software in favor of web apps, we will discontinue Google Pack today. People will still be able to access Google's and our partners' software quickly and easily through direct links on the Google Pack website.
  • Google Web Security: Google Web Security came to Google as part of the Postini acquisition in 2007, and since then we've integrated much of the web security functionality directly into existing Google products, such as safe browsing in Chrome. Although our previous sales channel will be discontinued, we'll continue to support our existing customers.
  • Image Labeler: We began Google Image Labeler as a fun game to help people explore and label the images on the web. Although it will be discontinued, a wide variety of online games from Google are still available.
  • Notebook: Google Notebook enabled people to combine clipped URLs from the web and free-form notes into documents they could share and publish. We'll be shutting down Google Notebook in the coming months, but we'll automatically export all notebook data to Google Docs.
  • Sidewiki: Over the past few years, we've seen extraordinary innovation in terms of making the web collaborative. So we've decided to discontinue Sidewiki and focus instead on our broader social initiatives. Sidewiki authors will be given more details about this closure in the weeks ahead, and they'll have a number of months to download their content.
  • Subscribed Links: Subscribed Links enabled developers to create specialized search results that were added to the normal Google search results on relevant queries for subscribed users. Although we'll be discontinuing Subscribed Links, developers will be able to access and download their data until September 15, at which point subscribed links will no longer appear in people's search results.

RELATED:

Google says it's winding down Google Labs

Google shuts down Slide, Max Levchin departs

Google agrees to $500-million settlement over online drug ads

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Vark.com, the website of the social search engine Aardvark. Credit: Aardvark/Google

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