Home Google Labs, a Relic of the Pre-Plus Era, Will be Closed

Google Labs, a Relic of the Pre-Plus Era, Will be Closed

Google Labs is over, the company announced today in a short post to the official Google Blog. Labs was the official home of many of Google’s experimental projects – from a map of the human body to a Gmail plug-in that tried to stop people from sending emails while drunk.

To be frank, it was an incoherent, unsatisfying, poorly supported tangle of perpetual alpha and beta technologies. Google would likely prefer it be seen as a relic of the Pre-Plus Era, back when Google “didn’t get social software.” The whole company is remaking itself now, with a very well received social network as the common thread now running through all the company’s sprawling properties around the web. Google Plus wasn’t a Labs Beta, it was a company-wide “field test” developed in deep secrecy and then shared with 10 million people who couldn’t get enough of it.

“While we’ve learned a huge amount by launching very early prototypes in Labs,” SVP for Research and Systems Infrastructure Bill Coughran wrote, “we believe that greater focus is crucial if we’re to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead.

“In many cases, this will mean ending Labs experiments–in others we’ll incorporate Labs products and technologies into different product areas. And many of the Labs products that are Android apps today will continue to be available on Android Market.”

Reactions among Google Labs app users range from concern that the news signals an end to a period of experimentation at Google to hopefulness that existing products will be better-supported as a result.

There was a sort of a flow with Labs, though. Ideas would be launched there, the company would see what kind of uptake they got, sometimes they would “graduate” from labs and sometimes they would be ended instead. Most of the time they would just hang out there forever, being just ok. What the new flow for experiments to be productized will be is something to watch for. A Google spokesperson said in an email, “there won’t be any immediate changes to in-product experimentation channels like Gmail Labs or Maps Labs. We’ll continue to experiment with new features in each of our products.”

When exactly Google Labs was born is unclear (I couldn’t figure it out, anyway) but it appears to have been at least 7 years ago. Labs for Google Apps, the company’s hosted enterprise software arm, was announced just under 3 years ago. Google Plus is not yet available for Apps users.

The market’s perception of Google’s relationship with innovation and experimentation now awaits all the more the release of Google Plus developer tools.

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