"What the hell is iGoogle?" a voice asked over the cubicle wall after Google's announcement today that it's continuing to streamline its product set.
The company says this midsummer, five-product death notice is part of a "spring clean" the company started last fall. Here're the products meeting their demise:
iGoogle. This customizable home page for the Web was launched in 2005. It's a combination of RSS reader and widget platform, and Google says the need for it "has eroded over time," given new apps on browsers and mobile devices. Users will have 16 months to manage a transition to these new apps before Google pulls the plug.
Google Video. The search engine's original video-hosting platform continues its long, planned glide into obsolescence. Nobody's been able to upload to the service since May of 2009. Later this summer (August 20), Google will export what's left on Google Video to private YouTube channels. Videos longer than 15 minutes (the usual limit for YouTube users) will still be transferred over from Videos to YouTube.
Google Talk Chatback is a text chat widget for Web publishers. Google is now pushing publishers who want that function to the Meebo bar, from the instant message company Google acquired a month ago.
Users of old Symbian smartphones will soon find the Symbian Search App for Google "retired." Google recommends throwing out these old phones and buying Android models. Wait, no. Actually, according to the announcement, "We encourage you to go to www.google.com and make it your home page."
Finally, Google is discontinuing the Google Mini, a hardware search appliance for enterprises that launched in 2005. Google isn't giving up on the concept: The Google Search Appliance is still available.
Google has never been averse to killing underperforming projects. Its most visible shutdowns are in the social sphere -- Wave, Buzz, Friend Connect, Aardvark -- but the company has also killed an offline platform with a lot of promise (Gears); the Linux version of Picasa; its knowledge-base experiment, Knol; and several other interesting experiments.
In many cases, concepts and technologies form failed projects live on. A lot of what Google learned from its social ventures is now embedded in Google+, and Knol's DNA can be seen in Google's new Knowledge Graph.