A complete archive of Google's failed attempts in the social networking space [Part -2]
Unveiling the unsuccessful attempts by Google in developing a long-term social networking/messaging platforms one-by-one.
In the second part of a 3-post series on unraveling Google’s social media/networking cemetery, we will be covering some unnoticed platforms that failed to get the expected userbase.
In case you haven’t read the first part of this series where we analysed the rise and fall of famous platforms like Orkut, Youtube Messaging, etc., click here to find the same.-
On that note, let’s get started!
Shoelace by Google
Shoelace was developed as one of the babies of Area 120 (their in-house incubator). It was a mobile app that was helped people connect with shared interests through in-person activities. It was great for folks who recently moved cities or were looking to meet others who live nearby.
Merely a few months after its launch, Area 120 announced that they will be shutting down Shoelace. They cited the Covid-19 induced “health“ crisis to be one of the important reasons, which makes sense because you eventually have to go “out” to connect via in-person activities.
Although there were some things Googlers were still doing wrong, in this case, they didn’t even get a chance to do their best at it. It was fate this time that led to the closure of Shoelace.
Fun fact: Founders on the name ‘Shoelace‘-“The whole premise of Shoelace is to tie people together based on their interests -- like two laces on a shoe. We do so through activities -- which are fittingly called ‘Loops.’“
Slide.com was one of the most powerful social games and app makers in the second half of the 2000s that was bought and buried by Google as a part of Larry Page's move to streamline Google's operations and bring focus to what the company is building.
Slide was acquired for over $200 million, with a primary focus on Max Levchin, cofounder, PayPal, who was known as a hard-core senior engineer with big-time social networking credibility.
It started out as a service that would organize photos on users’ computers and post them to personal blogs. As a part of their expansion, Slide started developing apps for social networking platforms like Facebook. "FunWall", "Fortune Cookie", "My Questions", "Top Friends", and "SuperPoke!" are some of the notable apps made by Slide.
The shut down was quite abrupt from Google’s end as Slide’s products were booming and within a year of acquisition, they rolled major products like “Disco“(First social group messaging app in the Google ecosystem), “Pool Party“(Google’s secret photo-sharing app), “Video Inbox“(Viral Videos to inbox) and even “Photovine“ which was just 1 week old.
Well, at a time of “Spring Cleaning” when Google Labs (birthplace of Gmaps, News, and Trends), Orkut, and other major products were buried as part of transformation by the newly re-appointed CEO Larry Page, some 10-15 products-basket in the form of Slide.com would not have been a difficult decision either.
Dodgeball was a location-based platform to help people connect with the people and places around them. Founded in 2000 by Dennis Crowley and Alex Reinert, who worked on Dodgeball as a part of their Master’s thesis, it was acquired by Google in 2005.
As per the founders, while talking to investors and VCs about the vision behind Dodgeball, no one really "got" what they were trying to do until they got in touch with folks from Google, which led to the acquisition. As per the comments, Google did not view Dodgeball as a revenue generator but rather a strategic experiment and investment.
“Users "check in" from registered locations to tell their friends where they are. As a result, Dodgeball's system knows where masses of people are (or say they are) at any moment. It seems like a perfect service to integrate with Google Maps, Google Calendar, and other products, but since Google bought Dodgeball last May, little has changed.” ~ Valleywag
The problems started when Dodgeball got officially “Googled“, as a part of which Google integrated its accounts into Dodgeball and introduced its own 5 digit SMS codes in place of the earlier email-based free system. The move got a lot of backlash from the current users and the founders Crowley and Reinert, which eventually turned out to be a steep of user churns that never recovered.
In this case, as per the founders’ blog, Google went too techy in innovating a social networking app, a move that an average user wasn’t able to adopt.
Launched on May 16, 2016, Spaces was Google’s take against Slack as a content-sharing platform that enabled users to host a space, invite their friends and share texts and multimedia.
A notable feature in Google Spaces: It allowed users to automatically pull in Google searches, images, YouTube videos, etc.
Although launched at Google I/O, folks at Mountain View termed it as an experimental project when John Kilcline, Product Manager at Google, announced its shut down on April 17, 2017, as the platform wasn’t adopted by the users as expected.
The platform wasn’t even 1 year old, but with Google eying a big launch of their next messaging app- Allo, Google Spaces was considered to be merely just an experiment to get feedback for future products.
Founded by ex-Googlers, Aardvark was acquired by Google for $50 Million in February 2010. Contrary to the core Google search engine, Aardvark was a social search that connected users with friends or friends-of-friends who answered their questions.
Some Aardvark datapoints as of February 2010-
90,361 users, of whom 55.9% posted a question
3,167.2 questions per day
Average query length = 18.6 words vs 2.5 on typical search engines
Although no specific reason was cited in this case as well, Aardvark also became the victim of Google’s transformational “Spring Cleaning“ and focus shift to Google+. It was buried a couple of weeks after the death of Slide.com.
Google Friend Connect
With Friend Connect, Google adopted an entirely decentralized social networking approach in which they allowed users to build a profile and share and update information via third-party sites. Here’s a quote from the official release to help you understand better-
Websites that are not social networks may still want to be social — and now they can be, easily. With Google Friend Connect (see http://www.google.com/friendconnect following this evening’s Campfire One), any website owner can add a snippet of code to his or her site and get social features up and running immediately without programming — picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting, and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.
Visitors to any site using Google Friend Connect will be able to see, invite, and interact with new friends, or, using secure authorization APIs, with existing friends from social sites on the web, including Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, Plaxo, and more.
As per a Google Engineer David Glazer, the point of Friend Connect was to “, give users a shortcut to connections they’ve built up somewhere else.” Source.
And here we are with another killed product that tasted the fate of Page’s “Spring Cleaning“, and another product in the tally of focus-on-Google+ death list. In this case, they officially connected dots to Google+ by redirecting users to Google+ badges, eventually paving away from a decentralized system.
This is it for the second part of this series!
In the next part, we will be talking about some of the most popular and OG social networking products by Google that ended up being buried despite being super popular.
In addition to this, we will also analyse and unravel the pattern behind Google’s failure in the social networking space in further posts.
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