From Google Buzz to Google Wave, a certain Mountain View-based search giant has a long history of scuttling products that failed to get off the ground. But the recent demise of Google Reader shows how that company isn't beyond killing even those things that have a relatively small but engaged user base.
Not only had Google Reader, like Digg, suffered from general declining interest at the hands of social-media networks such as the all-powerful Facebook and Twitter, but Google itself sought to get in on that force of disruption with Google+, its Facebook/Twitter/Skype mashup. Google+ is critically important to Google since it holds the key to learning more about its users and thus being able to deliver more personalized information.
These days, virtually every Google service must either integrate with Google+ or be supplanted by it. At least three services -- all growing out of acquisitions -- may be caught in the crosshairs.
Picasa Web. Google's online photo service grew out of its 2004 acquisition of photo editing software Picasa, which it continues to develop for Mac and Windows. Picasa can be used to upload photos to a couple of services, but Google has moved to tightly integrate it with Google+. When compared with YouTube, Picasa Web is relatively unknown and tends to rely on personal content that has even a smaller audience. Google+ already has great photo-grouping features from multiple people attending a party, so why keep Picasa Web around as its online storage component has already been sucked into Google Drive?
Blogger. The pioneering blogging service Google bought way back in 2003 from Pyra Labs has managed to stay outside the core of recent redesigns that have affected the look of core Google services such as GMail, Calendar, Maps, and even YouTube. But what may appear as independence may also be a sign of marginalization. At the launch of Google+, many realized that it could be used as a full-fledged blogging program, one that allows far greater distribution control and increasingly better visibility in search results. Blogger still has layout capabilities that go far beyond what Google+ can offer today. But Transitioning Blogger users to Google+ would be a way to retire and reinvent a service that's been soundly trounced in the market by WordPress.
Google Voice. Google's clever virtual phone service picked up from GrandCentral in 2007 is a critical tool for an ardent, albeit relatively small, number of consumers. It's been merely tolerated by most U.S. carriers and there have even been limits to the level of integration that's been achieved with Sprint, which has embraced it. The iOS app, which became emblematic of the growing tensions between Apple and Google, hasn't seen a major update since its release. And apart from instituting porting, neither has the service itself.
Google Voice now seems like the kind of fringe beast Google Reader was. Hangouts can already make calls to phones and handle messaging, which could be extended to SMS. As with Blogger, attaching a phone number to a Google ID could reinvent the service on a much broader scale than it was previously able to reach.