Monday, November 28, 2011

Changes... always changes to Google products

You probably saw the recent Google blog post about sunsetting different products.

Here it is in short:   (Remember, this is my personal blog and doesn't represent Google official thoughts, policy or inclinations...) 

1.  Google Bookmark Lists (Dec 19, 2011) -- essentially nobody was using them (I mean, not even was using them, so you know it didn't have much uptake).  Fatal flaw--what user problem was it solving?  Nobody really knows, so it's going away in December.  

2.  Google Friend Connect (Mar 21, 2012) -- being superceded by Google+ features.  

3.  Google Gears (Dec 1, 2011) -- it was a valiant attempt to make Google products work offline as well as online.  But with the advent of HTML 5 (and the various offline features it offers), Gears is rapidly becoming redundant.

4. Search Timeline (Oct, 2011) -- this is unfortunate, as there really isn't anything else quite like it. Yes, you can use Google Insights for some of this function, but the ability to do Timelines over News Archives is just gone.  I'm hunting around for a good replacement for the ability to do this kind of search + charting.  

5. Google Wave (Mar 30, 2012) -- I can't say that I'm sorry about this one being turned down.  In my use of Wave, it was just a giant, unwieldy thing.  Nice idea... but it was too much all in one package.  I want a speedboat, but got a cruise ship.  

6. Google Knol (Oct 1, 2012) -- This too was a great idea--authored Wikipedia style articles.  But it never took off in the way that Wikipedia has, partly because the articles never got enough links to make them show up high in the results.  Sigh.  Unfortunately, Wikipedia is suffering its own set of difficulties.  (Have you tried to add a new article to Wikipedia recently?  See Danny Sullivan's recent rant about this.  He's totally right.  His critique shows the growing problems that Wikipedia is having, and worries me about its future.)  

Moral of this particular story:  As I've been saying for a while, things come, things go.  The good news here is that Google is getting better about letting everyone know about these changes.  You can see the culture change over time.  Used to be that changes just happened without any kind of comment.  People noticed, or they didn't.  

Another kind of change that went unremarked (but I'll tell you) was that there were recently a bunch of changes to the online Dictionary.  When you do the [define: ] operation (such as [define:peruse]) the quality has gone up, primarily in marking typical uses.  While keeping up with shifting definitions is a full-time job, the fact that Google is paying attention to the quality is a great thing.  

But it's one of those things that isn't, from Google's point of view, worth mentioning.  It's just one of the continuous changes that tries to make everything better.  Of course, not every change is 100% improvement for everyone, but the goal (and I think Google pretty much succeeds at this) is to make the majority of people happier and have access to higher quality information.  (For even more information, see Matt Cutts recent post about recent ranking changes or the YouTube video about ranking changes below.)  

If you see something that is clearly worse for you (or better yet, worse for a large number of people), let me know.  The least I can do is to pass your observations along. 

Search on! 


  1. When I teach students how to make better sense of huge numbers of search results, Timelines and Wonderwheel were immensely helpful. How much sense your results make has largely to do with the context you can create for yourself; these tools helped searchers place results in space or time, something that is more difficult to do without them.

  2. Talking of the 'define:' operator, why did the specific action of "define:word" go away?

    entering "define peruse" and "define: peruse" look no different. To get the actual definitions, have to click 'more'.

    Lots of people unhappy with this change...

    Its a small thing, but its a enough of a pain, to make it worth going elsewhere for definitions.