Google’s plan to shut down the Google home page service is meeting with active resistance from iGoogle users who don’t want the cloud-based service to go away. The fracas serves as a useful reminder that cloud-based services exist at the convenience of their owners, not their users.
Just before the July 4 U.S. holiday, Google announced a new round of seasonal “spring cleanings,” closing Web-based services the search-engine giant no longer deems necessary to support. Among the list of products to be shuttered was the collaborative home page flagship project iGoogle, as well as the now-obsolete Google Video service.
Google’s Spring Cleaning
Google’s Matt Eichner, general manager of global enterprise search, laid it out on Google’s official blog July 3, highlighting five projects for Google’s self-proclaimed spring cleaning dustbin. iGoogle, along with Google Video, are by far the highest profile Web services getting chopped in this latest round.
The stated reason for iGoogle’s demise was the success of the app-like interfaces within Google’s Chrome browser and the ChromeOS and Android platforms. The AJAX-based iGoogle used app-like widgets for users to organize and customize information on their iGoogle pages, and Google saw this as redundant:
“With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding it down,” Eichner wrote.
The company will give iGoogle users plenty of time to get their content set up on a similar homepage platform. The service will remain open until November 1, 2013. That is, of course, if angry users let Google shut the service down quietly.
iAnger and iSurprise
This particular service cancellation is ticking off a lot of users. The overall tone of the more than 1,000-post thread on Google’s Product Forums is one of stunned surprise following the announcement.
“I am flabbergasted by Google’s decision to drop iGoogle. I have used it daily as my homepage since it’s initial launch and have no clue what I might use as a similar alternative,” wrote Sol O'Malee in an impassioned response.
A similar number of respondents have also signed an e-petition on Change.org asking Google to save iGoogle.
Where these users will go, is anyone’s guess, of course. There are similar services offered by MSN and Yahoo, but it seems clear that Google would rather iGoogle users stick with setting up similar feeds and apps on their Chrome browsers. It could also be possible that a similar form of app functionality might be coming to Google+, another landing spot Google would love to see get more traffic.
No One Will Miss Google Video
Google Video, the company’s first foray into online video hosting - before the company purchased YouTube in 2006 - won’t see such protests. And there’s already a planned landing spot for Google Video users: YouTube itself. Anyone who doesn’t want their video content on YouTube will have a few weeks to remedy that by removing or migrating the content themselves.
“Later this summer we’ll be moving the remaining hosted content to YouTube. Google Video users have until August 20 to migrate, delete or download their content. We’ll then move all remaining Google Video content to YouTube as private videos that users can access in the YouTube video manager,” Eichner outlined.
Google Video had pretty much ceased being an active video hosting site in 2009, when it stopped accepting uploads and started focusing on video search technologies.
Also included in this week’s purge:
- Google Mini, the small business edition of the Google Search Appliance.
- Google Talk Chatback, a widget that let website developers enable Google Chat with their visitors.
- Symbian Search App, a search app geared specifically for that mobile platform. Symbian users are encouraged to use the Web version of Google search.
Google’s spring cleanings are becoming a bit of a tradition with the company as it seeks to shed the experimental “labs” atmosphere of its early years to focus on fewer products and more revenue generation. (Check out the Google Graveyard on Pinterest - courtesy of Microsoft.)
But as iGoogle users are now learning, the cloud label isn’t just a cool moniker - sometimes it can describe the ephemeral nature of Software as a Service (SaaS) apps. No matter how useful a tool may be for the user, the future of a cloud app remains in the hands of the cloud owner.
So this week’s shutdowns should come as a reminder that even the best-used services are not inherently immune to closure. No one expects Google to shutter Gmail anytime soon, but it could if it wanted to.