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Google Software Technology

Ask Slashdot: Which Google Project Didn't Deserve To Die? 383

Posted by samzenpus
from the too-soon dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "When Google announced the shutdown of Google Reader, its popular RSS reader, it sparked significant outrage across the Web. While one could argue that RSS readers have declined in popularity over the past few years (in fact, that was Google's stated reason for killing it), they remain a useful tool for many people who want to collect their Web content—articles, blog postings, and the like—in one convenient place. (Fortunately for them, there exist any number of alternative RSS readers, some of which offer even more features than Google Reader.) This wasn't the first time that Google announced a project's imminent demise, and it certainly won't be the last: Google Buzz, Google Health, Google Wave, Google Labs, and other software platforms all ended up in the dustbin of tech history. So here's the question: of all those projects, which didn't deserve the axe? If you had a choice, which would you bring back?"
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Ask Slashdot: Which Google Project Didn't Deserve To Die?

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  • Google Weather API (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:13AM (#43203221)

    How I miss thee...

  • Google Groups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:13AM (#43203223)

    Alas, poor DejaNews, we knew ye well.

  • "Do no evil." (Score:5, Insightful)

    by concealment (2447304) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:15AM (#43203259) Homepage Journal

    My favorite Google project was the idea that a company built brand loyalty by refusing to do evil, manipulative and underhanded things.

    Ten years later, Google is doing those things. They're getting more aggressive with ads and invading personal information; they're cutting out useful projects that don't immediately monetize; they're trying to manipulate us into being better cash cows by signing up with our cell phones and handing over more ad-friendly information through Google+.

    I don't begrudge them the right to make a profit. They were doing that, and continue to do so, without any of these manipulative activities. I just want the "do no evil" project to come back because that was a Google, Inc. I could believe in.

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:16AM (#43203265) Homepage

    Nearly everyone I know used Reader.

    It's not an "obscure geeky thing". It's a great way to follow multiple websites. You don't need to be a geek to figure it out or benefit from it.

  • iGoogle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swinferno (1212408) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:16AM (#43203275)

    How I'm dreading November 1st when iGoogle will be retired...
    http://support.google.com/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2664197 [google.com]

  • Google Code Search (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:18AM (#43203295)

    RIP

  • by iggymanz (596061) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:26AM (#43203387)

    You're like the person in old story who had a rich man come to the front door with $1,000 every month. the person was happy and said "thank you" each time. One day the rich man went to the person's neighbor instead of his house, and gave the neighbor $1,000. The person was angry, and yelled "Hey, where is my money!!??" Do you see the issue now? *You* are the one being an asshole and an ingrate. You were given something good free of charge for years, and now can only bitch.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:30AM (#43203429) Journal

    The translate API was axed because it was too popular.

    I think there's a serious fiscal-minded disconnect between Google and Google fans/consumers. Google appeared to give several services for free to users. The first being search. And when they monetized big time on ads by selling users' eyeballs, only the businessmen and engineers seemed to realize that.

    Now, when they find they cannot monetize on an decent implementation of a news reader or an API of translation tools (surprise, surprise) they do a cost benefit analysis and decide that they are losing money and -- like any business -- pull the plug. People bitch and moan (myself at the front of the line) but you have to realize that what's good for the consumer isn't always good for the business. If Starbucks offers free 12 oz coffee day or 7 Eleven does a free 32 oz slurpee day, you can't go back the next day and scream in outrage that they have baited you in and now switched it on you and discontinued your favorite product (that was conveniently free) ... likewise you can say how great something was for the end user all you want. It doesn't mean it's going to survive. There is an old notion that good products survive because they sell and while that still applies to physical products, people are having a hard time transitioning that notion to software. Because it's not true when you think about it like Google's cash cows.

    I found the Google Reader petition particularly amusing ... where, in the petition, was the promise to pay a nominal yearly fee to use Reader? Or are we stupid enough to petition for publicly traded businesses to lose money? Where is the petition to have banks hand out $1 each time you visit them?

    Of course there's this weird notion on Slashdot that ad based revenue on the internet is a very bad thing [slashdot.org] and that the internet was better before it [slashdot.org] and there's some mythical better revenue model. And here we are on Slashdot, a site that (as far as I can tell) makes its money/breaks even on ads ...

    I think this question should be "What acceptable revenue model would have saved these services or turned them into cash cows?" Keep in mind that if tracking your users is part of maximizing your profit to offer these services then you're facing pitchforks and torches -- I mean look at the stupid "scroogled" Microsoft mud slinging ads.

  • by leptechie (1937384) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:32AM (#43203471) Homepage
    Surprisingly, Google Apps.

    It's not dead, but it's no longer free. I work with three volunteer organisations - they're not charities but social groups geared towards helping expats get settled in my city. Membership management, event planning and budgeting, publications and flyers. All were easy to collaborate on with Google Apps, but even the (seemingly) small subscription fees are a burden when we're explicitly non-profit and loosely organised. We could have two active users one month, ten the next, so no single pricing plan option is appropriate without serious overhead and/or possible overspend.
    Very unfortunate.

  • by fredprado (2569351) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:32AM (#43203473)
    That is one of the many problems with relying on clouds.
  • Re:iGoogle (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeffy210 (214759) on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:38AM (#43203515)

    Yup, that's the one I was going to post. It's been my homepage for years. It's a nice simple web based RSS aggregator that I could get to from anywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @11:57AM (#43203737)

    You're like the person in old story who had a rich man come to the front door with $1,000 every month. the person was happy and said "thank you" each time. One day the rich man went to the person's neighbor instead of his house, and gave the neighbor $1,000. The person was angry, and yelled "Hey, where is my money!!??" Do you see the issue now? *You* are the one being an asshole and an ingrate. You were given something good free of charge for years, and now can only bitch.

    Wrong; it was a covenant: They got my personal data so they could sell me to advertisers as a precisely targeted demographic, and in return I got a useful tool. In addition, they got a certain amount of exclusivity in the marketplace, because anyone else trying to build this type of useful tool would have a hard time beating "free". They broke their end of the bargain; now I'm on the lookout for better tools that beat "free" by a long margin, by selling me a service rather than selling me to advertisers. Gmail, for example, is right out as of the immediate now. I would prefer an email address I can be reasonable sure will stay the same for the next decade at least.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:04PM (#43203813)

    "That is one of the many problems with relying on clouds."

    Sadly, the main problem is the whole concept. While it might be a good idea, at some point in the future, that future is not yet here.

    What major online service, e.g. iCloud (based on MS Azure), Amazon AWS, etc. has not gone down for a significant period in each of the last few years? I am having trouble thinking of one.

    And before anybody says "Yes, but it's still more reliable than your own servers" I call bullshit. My own servers have not been down at all in the last few years.

  • by Seumas (6865) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:06PM (#43203837)

    He's right. Most people don't use RSS. The same way most people don't visit web pages other than Facebook and Twitter. It's hardly a justification for dismissing a protocol. RSS is a primary functionality of the web, now. It's offered on almost every website. It's the backbone of almost every podcast program.

    The tech media and self-promoting personalities would tell us that they've long since replaced RSS with Twitter and Facebook and that's where they get all their links and news. I call bullshit on that. They seriously log into a website 24x7 and sift through all the trivial garbage their friends post for the few pieces of signal among the noise? Most of the people I know who use facebook have nothing to do with the news or industries I'm in or care about and seeing my stream full of their posts about NASCAR, network television shows, and Kim Kardashian amidsts the occasional ignorant political rant would serve me in absolutely no way.

    RSS is my window to the world. I choose what sites I care about and I get their content delivered directly to me, quickly, stripped of any extraneous bullshit from their site. It's the kind of service that simply won't likely ever be replaced, because it is so simple and fulfills an important role.

    As for Google Reader. Whatever. I used it for years and it was the best way they had to keep me associated with their services. Perhaps even more than my gmail account. However, I don't care that they got rid of it. Google is worth like half a trillion dollars. Just because they don't see a future in it, financially, for themselves -- that doesn't mean it isn't worth it for everyone else. Look at all the little guys out there. They don't need half a billion users for their RSS clients and infrastructures to be a success. They only need a tiny fraction of that. Google's choice to ax this is fantastic. It would be like Blizzard axing World of Warcraft -- an act that would breath fresh life into a genre that it is sucking the air out of. It would encourage others to step in and take their place and compete and innovate.

    Already, we see plenty of these guys competing and offering new services and ways of interfacing with RSS. Syncing, different clients, magazine interfaces, clean stripped down interfaces. All sorts of stuff. And, hey, I bet some of them won't be utterly fucking broken the way Google was (where it would just not let you ever delete some entries in your feed, even after several years) -- and if they are, they'll probably have some form of god damn customer service so you can actually talk to a human about how their shit is broken.

    PS: This move isn't going to get me to use G+ any more, either, Google. The only thing I need social networking for is work and that's what LinkedIN is for. I use G+ in the same way I use Facebook -- as a placeholder for my name so someone else can't take it and nothing more.

  • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:32PM (#43204093)

    No, there isn't. Evil is as evil does.

  • by snadrus (930168) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:53PM (#43204317) Homepage Journal

    RSS, Federated XMPP, and Google Wave are all federated protocols that Google's not working with anymore. We need better federated protocols to catch-on (by being well supported) now that email is looking ancient.

    Everyone has an email address because anyone can run an email server, not because a handful of mega-tech companies elected to work together. Email has no central point of censorship or ad-scanning. The same isn't true for any discussion page, twitter, social media, etc.

    HTTP is mostly decentralized (except DNS & SSL) and is the basis of today's Internet. Decentralized protocols make the world grow. Axing them kills progress.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:53PM (#43204323)

    From a company point of view, cloud services are about as horrible as it can get because we're talking the loss of real money. Yet that ghost hovers over oh so many board rooms it just is not funny anymore. It usually comes with its buddy, Software-as-a-service. Normally encountered shortly after one of the tie racks comes back from lunch with one of the sales drones from such a provider.

    Sure, it looks nice at first glance. We store our stuff "somewhere" and someone else takes care of it, and the best part of it is that it's really dirt cheap. Plus we can fire all those techies, or if we already did and outsourced our storage, we can cut that noose we hang on and gain a lot of flexibility. And it's great until (not if, until) something goes wrong.

    Anyone here really had NO downtime in their company in the last, say, three years due to computer or network troubles? And if you think getting your stuff back in order is a hassle with your ISP, try the same with a cloud provider. What you saved in months of cloud services is lost in the few days your employees will sit around and do no meaningful work.

  • by neminem (561346) <neminem@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:00PM (#43204413) Homepage

    Except, giving out personal information doesn't actually *cost* me anything, so to me, it *is* free. If I give a dollar to Google, I can't give that dollar to someone else, or keep it in my wallet. But if I give out "here are all the blogs I read" to Google, and another site is willing to give me something else in exchange for the list of blogs I read, I can get both, and still have the list of blogs I read for my own use, too. So why should I care that Google has that list? (The only pieces of personal information I would be at *all* tentative about giving out to literally anyone who asks, are pieces of information that could either be easily used to trick a bank into giving someone who isn't me my cash (credit card number, debit pin number), or that could be used to specifically harass me (phone number, address)).

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:04PM (#43204479)

    It is more reliable then your own servers generally, Not more always more reliable then your server personally.
    A lot of companies have their servers running on Desktop System under their desk plugged into the wall, with a single hard-drive. Or have their systems in a server room but there are the low priority servers that are not part of the main architecture, because what they do, do not justify the cost. So if you have a cloud system you get a cheap server, to do a low/mid priority task. Say running your website, or email. Something depending on your organization can afford to be offline for a period of time.

    So you personally may be a good administrator, or you may have been lucky that they didn't go down. It isn't that could is better any individual system for uptime, it is just better on the average.

  • by plover (150551) on Monday March 18, 2013 @03:08PM (#43206169) Homepage Journal

    And from a company point of view, I can also produce statistics on how many of our systems we ourselves screwed up with no help from the cloud. People screw up. Hardware fails.

    The difference with the cloud is that you've added two additional horribly complex systems (the network and the external servers) that can also be screwed up by people or fail for various reasons. You've also added the latency required to access the remote service. On top of that you've added multiple entry and exit points for data coming into and leaving your network, with extra key exchanges needed, and a different security environment to either be audited or blindly trusted.

    In exchange, you get to avoid the up front costs of installing a few servers, and the ongoing costs of managing them. Instead, you simply pay someone else on an ongoing basis to buy and maintain their own hardware with your money. And if they raise their rates, or go out of business, or buy cheap servers, or hire stupid people, or smart lawyers, guess what? You're only a lot worse off than you were before.

    It's a pretty cloud when it's way up in the blue sky. But it's nothing but fog when it's in your face.

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