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This week marked Google’s 23rd birthday. While it is easy to look sidelong at what it has become over the last two decades, you can’t argue the impact. It is hard to express how foundational, how groundbreaking, and how important to modern computing the contributions that this humble little search engine company has created in the span of two decades.
So with that spirit, we wanted to pay tribute to some of the landmark Google products that didn’t get to celebrate along with the gang in Mountain View. While there are entire websites ghoulishly dedicated to dead Google products, we picked a few of our favorites over the years. Enjoy and happy birthday Google!
Google Reader – Oh Google Reader, how I loved thee. You made it so easy to knit together a blossoming blog ecosystem, and to keep up with a variety of tech blogs in the days before we had everything spoon-fed to us by sites like Hacker News. Your closure pretty much single-handedly killed RSS for text based content — which I have to assume was by design. For some odd reason your sibling Feedburner was kept around, which was only put out to pasture this year. Many folks tried to replace you, but the blow was too big. Now we have to deal with walled gardens of content like Medium. Google Reader, you are missed! – Justin
Bump! — Sharing contacts nowadays seems simple and easy. But back in the early days of smartphones, navigating the process for a n00b was far less accessible and more byzantine. Thanks to Bump, sharing contacts became much simpler. Open Bump, stand next to a friend, bump phones and confirm the added contact. Bump’s architecture pre-dated Near Field tech availability on phones and as such, the solution required accelerometers, GIS data, and IP address data. The architectural equivalent of going around one’s posterior to reach one’s elbow. As new technologies emerged and contact sharing became widely known and adopted, Bump was put to rest after being acquired by Google for Google Photos and the Google Phone.
Project Ara: A wonderful concept into the world of sustainable, modular, device manufacturing that sparked countless other companies to imagine a future where customers have more power and control and the world has less e-waste. But alas, beautiful dreams are forever thwarted by the power of the bottom-line. However, the hope of Project Ara still remains in companies like Fairphone and Framework working to make products that are built to last.
Songza, meebo, & knol – Songza was a great music streaming service and meebo was a broadly networked messaging and social media tool which I used heavily for a while. Songza offered human-curated playlists to match a mood or an activity. Curated playlists are more common now, but back then, it was a breath of fresh human air in a landscape of mediocre algorithms. Meebo was ahead of its time also, a web-based messenger consolidation platform. You could get all of your, say, MSN, AIM, & ICQ messages in one place – and it was over HTTPS, before that was ubiquitous. So you had more privacy from people snooping on open protocols. Knol was interesting also, like a wikipedia competitor but more for specifically targeted content. But all of these felt less threatening when Google was more “Don’t be evil.” and less “You are the product.” – Al
Wave — There are few products from Google which were as widely hyped and yet so tepidly supported. How can anyone with legit geek credentials not love a grossly misunderstood and failed product inspired by yet another grossly misunderstood and failed product, the space western Fox TV show known as Firefly. Dreamt up by the same minds that brought you the widely acclaimed Google Maps, Wave was part email, part message board, part Yammer, part project management software. While some here at Simple Thread reject this idea, I believe it to be the best precursor to how many now use Slack, Discord, and Teams. Regardless, as soon as Wave launched and the feedback wasn’t voracious like Gmail and Maps, the company quickly backed away quicker than Homer Simpson into a hedge. #OneSeasonAndAMovie
Let us know which of your favorites we missed. There are so many to choose from!
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