Google is known for innovation, but not every new product is a success. The company has launched and discontinued hundreds of projects over the years. While some failures frustrate loyal users and employees, Google’s box of abandoned projects provides unique insights. 

This study reveals some of the most intriguing and surprising facts and stories behind Google’s product kills.

Google Product/Services : Active vs Discontinued

Overview

Let’s cover some quick facts that we will elaborate on in this article.

Total Number of Google Products/Services Developed till date559
Active Google Products/Services271
Average Lifespan for Google Product 4 years 1 month [3]
Some Popular Google Discontinued ProductsGoogle Reader, Google Plus
Google Products with the shortest lifespanGoogle Spaces and Google Hands-free
Most Expensive Discontinued ProductsGoogle Fiber, Google Loon
Products Killed by Google After AcquisitionBump, Songza, Waze, Jaiku

Total Number of Google’s Discontinued Products

Google’s Discontinued Products Distribution
Goodle’s Discontinued Products288
Apps57
Services209
Hardware22

Google sure does love axing products. According to the website Killed by Google, over 250 Google offerings have gotten the boot so far. This “graveyard” includes 57 dead apps, 209 discontinued services, and 22 canceled hardware products.

Other sites estimate the total number of killed Google products could be over 200. Over the years, that’s a huge pile of scrapped tools, platforms, and gadgets. [1]

Google’s been on quite a cancellation spree, too. In the early days, it cut about 12 products per year. But from 2011-2021, it began killing around 22 products annually. 2019 was an absolute bloodbath, with over 25 offerings getting eliminated. 

Timeline of Google’s Discontinued Products

Time Line of Google Products
TimelineProducts
2001-2005Google Deskbar and Google Answers
2006-2011Google Lively and Google Web Accelerator
2012-2017Google Reader and Google Spaces
2018-presentGoogle+ and Google Glass

Google has canceled a ton of products over the past 15 years. Let’s walk through the timeline of shutdowns.

Back in the 2000s, Google was just getting started. They axed early projects like the Google Deskbar toolbar and Google Answers.

In the 2010s, Google went on a major chopping spree. They killed off big platforms, including Google Reader, in 2013, despite its 129 million users. Google+ was shut down in 2019 after flopping as a Facebook competitor. [1]

In the last five years alone, Google has cut over 100 products. Messaging apps have been especially vulnerable to getting the boot. Hardware projects like Google Glass and Pixel phones have also faced early endings despite flashy launches. [1]

Various Categories of Products Killed by Google

Categories of Products Killed by Google
CategoriesTotal Count/Number to dateNotable Products
Cloud Computing Services5+ [4]Google Cloud, Google Cloud Print, Google Station
Communications and Social Apps10+ [5]Google Talk, Google+, Google Hangouts, Google Allo 
Hardware Devices and Gadgets3+Google Pixel, Google Glass
Software Tools and Utilities12+Google Reader, Google Notebook, URL Shortener

Google has canceled all kinds of products over the years. They’ve shut down many communication and social apps like Google Talk, Google+, and Google Hangouts. Despite big ambitions, Google has struggled to compete with the giants like Facebook and WhatsApp.

Cloud computing services also frequently get eliminated as Google streamlines its cloud offerings. Projects like Google Cloud Print, Cloud Messaging, and Google Station have been discontinued.

Hardware efforts like Google Glass and Pixel devices have been axed, too, even when first launched with lots of hype. Google pulls the plug if the gadgets don’t gain traction fast enough.

Smaller tools like Google Reader, Google Notebook, and the URL shortener have been incorporated into Google’s core apps and then canceled.

Google Innovations That Were Ahead of Their Time

Innovation NameYear IntroducedWhy It Was Ahead of Its TimeWhat Happened to It
Google Glass2013Introduced the concept of a wearable computer that augments reality with relevant detail, including an information overlay and a camera for capturing images and video.Initially ceased consumer sales in 2015. Returned for enterprises in 2017 and 2019. Officially ended all versions in March 2023.
Google Stadia2019Promised to bring AAA game titles to multiple screens, including phones, Chromebooks, and PCs, through cloud streaming.Shuttered in January 2023. Issues included an unclear target market and an inability to compete in hardware/software packaging against rivals like Sony and Microsoft.
Google Cardboard2014Offered a cheap and easy way to experience virtual reality content, games, and apps. Made from a single piece of folded cardboard and a pair of lenses.Officially killed by Google in 2021. However, third-party Cardboard viewers and the app for the device are still available.
Project Ara2013Introduced a modular smartphone concept, allowing users to swap out modules to better suit their requirements. Went against the all-in-one smartphone trend. [6]Killed by Google in 2016. Marked the end of realistic hope for a modular smartphone.

Most Popular Google Discontinued Products or Biggest Failures

ProductLaunch YearPeak UsersShutdown YearReason for FailureUser Migration
Google Reader2005~8 million2013Declining popularity, lack of innovationFeedly, Inoreader, Flipboard
Google+2011Over 90 million2019Low user engagement, data breachN/A
PicasaAcquired 2004N/A2016Duplication with Google PhotosIntegrated into Google Photos

Google Reader RSS allows users to subscribe to and read updates from their favorite websites in one place. The decision to shut down Google Reader was met with disappointment from its loyal user base. 

Google+ Social Network aimed to compete with platforms like Facebook but failed to gain traction. Google+ was seen as a wasted opportunity and a costly mistake for Google, which invested a lot of resources and talent into it.

Picasa Photo Storage and Editing was an image organizer and editing software that allowed users to manage and edit their photos. Later, Photos offered more cloud storage space, better integration with other Google products, and more advanced features such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Google Products with Longest and Shortest Lifespans

ProductLaunch YearShutdown YearLifespanNotes
Gmail2004Still Active18+ yearsOne of Google’s most popular products
YouTube2005Still Active17+ yearsWorld’s largest video platform
Google Search1997Still Active25+ yearsWorld’s most-used search engine
Google Reader200520138 yearsPopular RSS reader with millions of users
Google Wave200920122+ yearsReal-time communication platform
Google Lively20082008A few monthsVirtual world platform
Google Handsfree20162017Under 1 yearQuickly discontinued product
Google Spaces20162017Under 1 yearCollaboration tool, short-lived

Products that made us think they were here for the long haul are Google Reader, Google Wave, Google TV, a smart TV platform that was discontinued in 2014 after four years of operation, and last but not least, Google Helpouts, a video chat platform that was launched in 2013 and shut down in 2015 after less than two years of operation. 

We only heard a little about them as they quickly faded from the market. Like Google Spaces, launched in May 2016 and discontinued in February 2017, it has a lifespan of less than a year; Google Handsfree, Google Wave, and Google Lively.

Most Expensive Discontinued Products

ProductLaunch YearCostReason for Failure
Google Fiber2010Billions invested in infrastructureHigh costs, regulatory hurdles
Motorola MobilityAcquired 2012 for $12.5 billion$12.5 billion acquisition costFailed to deliver desired results, sold at a loss to Lenovo in 2014 for $2.91 billion
Google Loon2013Hundreds of millions investedHigh costs, limited commercial viability

Google Fiber was a high-speed internet service launched by Google in 2010. It aimed to provide internet speeds up to 1000 Mbps, but the service was discontinued in some cities and scaled back in others due to high costs and regulatory challenges.

Google acquired Motorola Mobility, a mobile device manufacturer, in 2012 for $12.5 billion. The acquisition was aimed at strengthening Google’s position in the mobile market, but it ultimately failed to deliver the desired results.

Google Loon was a project to provide internet access to remote areas using high-altitude balloons. The project was launched in 2013 and became a standalone subsidiary in 2018. However, the project was shut down in 2021 due to high costs and limited commercial viability.

The Environmental Impact of Google’s Discontinued Products

CategoryNotable Statistics/FactsEquivalent or Scale
Discarded Pixel PhonesEach phone harbors 50+ hazardous materials50 metric tons of e-waste from 1M+ phones annually
Other Discarded HardwareNest cams, WiFi routers, Glass headsetsToxic pile size of a football field
Ghost Data CentersPower deceased services like Reader and InboxEnergy use equal to 200,000 homes
Abandoned Production MaterialsNexus Q, Project AraUsers scramble for replacements

Google’s discontinued phones, Nest, WiFi, and Glass products create over 50 metric tons of e-waste yearly. Ghost data centers for axed services equal energy use of 200,000 homes. Production materials like Nexus Q and Project Ara lie abandoned. This waste of hazardous materials, energy, and resources highlights the environmental impact of Google’s iterative product development.

Products Killed by Google Soon After Acquisition

ProductAcquisition YearShut Down YearTime to ShutdownStatus
Dodgeball200520094 yearsDiscontinued
Jaiku200720125 yearsDiscontinued
Slide201020122 yearsDiscontinued
Songza201420151 yearDiscontinued
Bump201320141 yearDiscontinued
Waze2013Still ActiveContinues as standalone app
Nest2014Still ActiveContinues as standalone brand
Fitbit2019Still ActivePlans to integrate technology

Employee and Insider Perspectives

Folks who’ve worked at Google say shutting down products feels brutal. 

It was like losing a kid,” one engineer said about Reader. “Years of hard work gone just like that.

Ex-Googlers say the company doesn’t care about stranding users when it ditches stuff. Decisions happen “out of the blue,” per a former PM. “No real reason besides low usage.”  

But low use only tells part of the story. The Wave team felt “lost in the dark” because strategies kept changing. Tough to find your way.

All the chopping breeds anxiety among staff. “You never know when the axe will fall,” said a veteran designer. “It kills creativity and trust.” 

Though Google preaches transparency, insiders describe a “black box” around decisions. Ending Inbox felt like “yanking the rug out from under us,” its lead engineer said.

Google’s flighty product culture reduces team spirit and stifles innovation. More empathy for users and workers could steer them away from rough waters. One insider said, “A little heart would go a long way.”

Conclusion

Google’s thick file of discontinued products provides unique insights into the company’s innovation process.

Google is always looking for the next big thing but is willing to admit its mistakes and move on. Google’s products may be seen as a sign of failure, waste, or creativity, and courage. The truth is there’s always a strategy and research behind dumping something.

However, the frequent shutdowns reveal an impatience to iterate and a lack of regard for environmental impacts. The lessons learned from defeated projects inform more vital future products.

References 

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Google_products#Discontinued_products_and_services
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glass
  3. https://gcemetery.co/google-product-lifespan/#:~:text=Google%20has%20killed%20over%20150,4%20years%20and%201%20month.
  4. https://cloud.google.com/products
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Google_products
  6. https://www.androidauthority.com/killed-by-google-3352366/