Google's 'see what sticks' approach can leave users sceptical about the longevity of new Google services


Following is a transcript of the video.

Clancy: So I’m an Android user, and I used to use Google Hangouts to text. Syncing all my texts with my computer was great, but then Google killed Hangouts. Yeah, I can technically still use it, but what’s the point of using an app that’s about to be shut down? Something similar has probably happened to you because Hangouts isn’t alone. Google has killed over 150 apps, products, or services since 2006. There are entire websites dedicated to cataloging dead Google products. How can a company as big as Google be so unreliable?

All right, let’s go over some Google products that have met an untimely death. Inbox was an email app that Google released in 2014. It had features and UI options that the Gmail app lacked, but Google shut down Inbox in 2018, and Google’s messaging ecosystem is an even bigger mess. Google introduced its new messaging app, Allo, in 2016.

Erik Kay: We’re gonna walk you through three areas that make Allo really special.

Clancy: But then it shut down Allo just three years later. Google has even shut down its URL-shortening service. But what about hardware? Surely Google wouldn’t abandon entire physical product lines. Google used to partner with companies like LG to produce a line of smartphones under the Nexus brand. But after the Nexus 6P, Google stopped making these devices and moved on to its flagship Pixel phones. Also on the chopping block? Chromecast Audio, which was discontinued last year. Google is even shutting down the consumer side of its social network Google+. OK, so that one isn’t exactly beloved, but it still counts. OK, I think you get the picture. But why does Google do it? Why kill off so many products?

Well, Google is a big company, and a lot of their teams work independently. And when the structure or focus of these teams change, the products they have developed usually changes too. Google Play Music was created in 2011, but now Google also has YouTube Music. Two services that are very similar. So Google announced that they planned to replace Google Play Music with YouTube Music. Let’s say two separate teams develop their own messaging apps, then those teams merge. There’s a good chance that one app is going away. Services can also be shut down because their original purpose or function has become outdated. Instead of being updated, it may just be canceled. When these services shut down, users have to do a ton of research to figure out when the app will truly die, what happens to their data, and how do they migrate to another app. It always sucks when an app you use suddenly shuts down, but what’s the broader effect of all these canceled products?

Antonio: Looking at a list, Google has killed a lot of things, but nothing that’s really big or has a huge impact. Like, Google hasn’t killed Gmail, for example, or YouTube. Google’s very good at experimenting and also making it seem like the experiment is the real deal. They will just release something into the wild and see if it sticks, and if people don’t like it or don’t use it, OK, we’ll sort of cancel it and kill it. What often tends to happen is that a new version or a rebranded version of that old app or service that it killed shows up later. Other companies like Apple, for example, is much more calculated about what it releases and what it kills off. It does create a sense of sort of vagueness or uncertainty about how long its new products will hang around for.

Clancy: Unfortunately for Google, this has already started to happen. Google announced their upcoming game-streaming platform, Stadia, in March. Giving users the freedom to play a game on any device without needing powerful hardware is an awesome promise.

Phil Harrison: I’m thrilled to announce that Stadia is launching this year, 2019.

Clancy: But if users are gonna invest their time and money into a platform, they wanna know if it will stick around and not disappear three years later along with their game library. I use Google’s video-calling app, Duo. It’s really good actually, but I’m always worried that they’re going to abandon it. It was released around the same time as Allo and, yes, there have been a lot of updates, but there’s no guarantee that it will stick around.

On the flip side, people were surprised when Google moved its phone-carrier service, Project Fi, out of the project phase. They even renamed it to just Google Fi. But even with the name change, I still worry that Google will shut it down one day, which will force me and others to find a different carrier.

OK, so Google clearly has a ton of ideas, but they don’t always follow through. But for services like messaging, you want to use something that will stick around and not go away right after you convinced your friends and family to start using it. If you use a lot of Google services like I do, you never really know if your favourite app is on the chopping block or not. We just need to enjoy apps like Duo while we still have them.

Antonio: Google, I swear to God. Make something else that’s similar to Hangouts, or don’t kill Hangouts! Just don’t kill Hangouts, that’s it. ‘K, I’m done, bye.

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