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A look at Google’s many, many product failures

Published Aug 30th, 2016 4:50PM EDT
Google Failures
Image: Google

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You have to give Google credit. While the company’s primary revenue generator remains search-based advertising, Google has never been shy about exploring new ideas and business ventures. And while some of Google’s bold new initiatives have worked out swimmingly (Android), the vast majority have been, to put it bluntly, embarrassing failures. To be fair, this isn’t a knock against Google, but rather the inevitable result of the old adage that if you dream big, you run the risk of failing big.

Say what you will about Google, there’s simply no denying that the company loves to dream big. In turn, the company also has a long list of failures to its name. Whereas Apple prides itself on saying ‘no’, Google prides itself on saying ‘yes.’ In fact, Google’s failures are so numerous that it’s hard to pinpoint any specific venture as being the most disastrous. I mean, how can one reasonably choose between Google Wave, Google Plus or Google Glass?

DON’T MISS: The worst thing about yesterday’s big iPhone 7 specs leak

As for the latter product, I was lucky enough to get to try on a pair of Google Glasses a few years ago, back when the hype surrounding the product was still fresh and palpable. I was beyond curious and excited to see what the fuss was all about. However, that excitement quickly turned to disappointment the moment I gave the glasses a spin. What I soon discovered was that Google Glass sported incredibly cool technology but was, nonetheless, practically useless. In short, there’s a fundamental difference between creating a product or gadget that nerds might like and a product with mainstream appeal.

Again, we’re not trying to rag on Google here as the company does a few things exceedingly well, with search and maps being obvious examples. Still, it’s somewhat fascinating that a company like Google, with so many talented engineers and scientist under its employ, can be home to no shortage of public-facing product failures.

A recent Quora thread on the topic asks What are Google’s most surprising product failures? and the listed answers are quite fascinating to look over. What’s especially interesting is that many of Google’s failures were either a) horribly executed or b) arguably ahead of their time. That being said, one answer in particular — from former Googler Lewis Lin — details a number of Google failures while also listing what those products had the potential to become.

  • Google Wave. It could have been Slack.

  • Orkut. It could have been Facebook.

  • Google+. It could have been Snapchat or WhatsApp.

  • Google Hangouts on Air. It could have been Facebook Live or Periscope.

  • Google Answers. It could have been Quora.

  • Google Catalog Search. It could have been Pinterest.

  • Dodgeball. It could have been FourSquare or related social networking site.

  • Google Notebook. It could have been Evernote.

  • Google Page Creator. It could have been Squarespace.

  • Google Video. It wasn’t YouTube.

No I don’t agree with all of these but it’s still a fine list; for example, I don’t think Orkut ever had a chance to become Facebook. Still, it’s fascinating to see just how open Google is to try new initiatives and, more than that, how willing it is to fail, regroup, and try something completely different.

Funny enough, there are so many failed Google initiatives that some didn’t even warrant attention. For example, remember Google Buzz? How about the company’s Boston Dynamics acquisition that went nowhere?

The entire Quora thread is well worth checking and can be viewed via the source link below.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.


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