"Google Glass: 2013-?"
September 4, 2015 2:47 AM   Subscribe

Here are some useful websites from our pals at Google. Well actually, the websites and tools have all been killed, but their dev blogs helpfully remain!
Google Notebook - iGoogle - Google Desktop - Google Video - Orkut - Jaiku (Here's a hilarious-in-retrospect article from Venturebeat about Google buying Jaiku.) - Google Talk (semi-dead, hasn't updated since 2010) - Google Reader.
A good list of killed Google services can be found on Slate's Google Graveyard, unrelated to the one Joe Beese linked in 2010 which has, itself, died.

But hey, at least all those resources they instead poured into Google Plus were for a good cause, right? Anyway, there is more:
posted by JHarris (87 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Google is so eerily similar to the huge monopolistic tech conglomerates of yesteryear. I am always hoping that the rent they take from search (AKA the utility of the internet) could be plowed into something like bell labs. Shame to see these abandoned ideas by the wayside, but also looking forward to the dividends they could have been paying instead!
posted by The Ted at 3:16 AM on September 4, 2015

Please never kill Google Talk.
posted by subdee at 3:31 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Hope I didn't jinx it.
posted by subdee at 3:31 AM on September 4, 2015

I still end up on the dead Google Reader page sometimes when I'm not paying attention.
posted by subdee at 3:32 AM on September 4, 2015 [11 favorites]

There's a sweet little Google app/ website that I really hope they don't kill because it's ridiculously useful to have notes/ to-do lists synced through browsers and devices, and it's Google Keep.

I love this little thing, but I know that some day they'll decide to kill it too because they can't monetize it.
posted by sukeban at 3:43 AM on September 4, 2015 [12 favorites]

There was App Inventor For Android, which they killed a few years back. And then when I just looked at that page today it seems google code itself was closed last week, too.

Everything's closed.
posted by dng at 3:50 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ugh, I'd forgotten all about Jaiku. If anything killed it, it was Google, not Twitter. They essentially shut it down for months to "migrate the service to Google infrastructure", if memory serves. By the time they came near to finishing that process, the userbase had long since moved on. Complete mismanagement—Google utterly squandered their purchase.
posted by spinda at 3:56 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Please never kill Google Talk.

They sorta did kill it a few months ago. The Google Talk for Windows client no longer works, even though you can still connect with any other client like Pidgin. I'm using Pidgin now but I find it way clunkier than the Google Talk client.

What do other people do on Windows btw? Are there alternatives to using hangouts inside Gmail (i.e. lost among a hundred other tabs inside your browser so it's really hard to switch back and forward to it) or install the add on to Chrome (full of bugs, small non resizeable windows, not a proper app, needs the browser running to work).

The pattern that Google seem to repeat again and again is annoying - create a great, clean, fast product, then kill it and replace it with a supposedly all singing all dancing new one that's slow, missing half the features that made the first one great, and (hopefully this will go away now) joined at the hip with Google Plus.
posted by kersplunk at 3:57 AM on September 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

Not so much dead as kicked out of the parents' basement and unlikely to fend for itself: GWT.

Previously Google Web Toolkit but now standing for GWT Web Toolkit, it's a Java framework for Eclipse that compiles down to HTML, CSS and javascript. This was Google's idea of making web development more accessible. Last year they declared it open-sourced, kicked it off Google Code, and Google employees no longer manage the project (they've been transferred to Dart).

For an indication of how great an idea GWT is in practice, visit the project homepage on a mobile browser in landscape mode, because they can't get the viewport breakpoints right.
posted by ardgedee at 3:57 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

And oh yeah, speaking of Google Code...
posted by ardgedee at 4:00 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

There was App Inventor For Android, which they killed a few years back.

That repo might be abandoned, but App Inventor is very much alive.
posted by effbot at 4:00 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

They are slowly killing picasa, too - which is still my favourite picture manager (not editor) and back-up syncer. It feels to me sometimes like the bar for "Success" at google is so high, they aren't content with minor success, to our detriments.
posted by smoke at 4:01 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

They shuttered it, leaving Second Life unchallenged to become the all-encompassing internet juggernaut we know today.
Ha, I swear I arrived at this post after Alt+Tab'ing over to MeFi from the Second Life client.

There are dozens of us! Dozens! (actually, there's around 30k concurrent users still)
posted by spinda at 4:02 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think it's more that user experience is only a small percentage of "success" vs other criteria like:
* moneymaking tie-ins, like the way Maps now has a much bigger emphasis on restaurant listing etc to compete with Yelp.
* getting people locked into Google, like abandoning XMPP for a proprietary protocol for Hangouts.
* pushing people onto Google Plus, like the YouTube account insanity.
posted by kersplunk at 4:05 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm a Luddite but I'm now thinking of going at the Windows Google Talk .exe with a hex editor and seeing if I can change the user agent it gives to the server to see if it will still work.
posted by kersplunk at 4:06 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm still waiting for Jotspot to make a comeback.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:08 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't even get me started on Reader. While I'm bitching, it seems to be more common these days that developers have a "we know best" attitude to software, where they are confident in completely gutting important stuff or making big UI changes for the sake of it. Stuff like the Unity desktop on Linux.
posted by kersplunk at 4:11 AM on September 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

Losing Reader still hurts. I found a home with Newsblur but it's still nowhere near as good as Reader.
posted by Talez at 4:18 AM on September 4, 2015 [10 favorites]

There is no resume glory in bugfixes, but much to be gained by bolting shiny new things together.
posted by benzenedream at 4:22 AM on September 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I live in terror that they'll kill GoogleBooks, which, while it's still adding books, appears not to be maintained when it comes to functionality.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:30 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Google Reader is the Old Yeller of the Internet.

Still not over it.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 4:33 AM on September 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

Someday this is going to happen to Scholar and my life will be ruined.
posted by escabeche at 4:36 AM on September 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

Google Voice is still loved by the mothership, right? Right?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:49 AM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Whatever helps you sleep at night.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:50 AM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Hangouts has its own web UI now. Non-mobile only.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:05 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Google Voice is still loved by the mothership, right? Right?

GV, or at least the mobile version, is being merged with Hangouts. So far, it doesn't look like much functionality is going to be lost. But, y'know, don't hold your breath.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:15 AM on September 4, 2015

The problem is that almost everything you do on the internet is ephemeral. All the hours people poured into Knol, and Orkut all gone. The workflows that you build create that rely on these systems can be destroyed at the whim of some corporate bottom line. Websites that you put hours in creating friends and groups destroyed within moments (see last.fm for a recent non Google example).

Yeah we all move on to the next system hand over our data to be mined let them grab whatever money they can from our presence there, from adverts, and venture capitalists, ande then gone.

This web malarkey ain't what its cracked up to be.
posted by lilburne at 5:16 AM on September 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

What do other people do on Windows btw?

Slack is the new business chat.
posted by Artw at 5:18 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Google Voice is still loved by the mothership, right? Right?

In addition to the merger with hangouts, a lot of the gv infrastructure is now being used to make Google Fi work, or so I hear. I'm on Fi now and it is awesome, so great that I'm sure they'll get rid of it before long.
posted by dis_integration at 5:19 AM on September 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

The goog makes no secret of the fact they are basically a skunk works. I mean, they aren't going to say this in the press release for some new product but it is always the intention.

Talk to anyone who works there. They aggressively pour profit into crazy ideas, and develop them all the way to full release.

Like most projects, they know it's the tools and pieces they build for the actual product that have real value. And the experience, both technical and social.

Yeah, if you adopt a Google project, your days as a user are numbered. But go into it knowing you are part of an experiment, not a customer.

I mean, it's not like it cost you anything. And they almost always give you lots of notice and tools to exit with your content.

This is sort of why people want to work there. It's a tech company that actually does leading edge tech. Yeah, they are great at spin, lobbying governments, and hyperbole. Find me a transnational corp that isn't.

But they are still, after all these years, a tech company doing actual new tech, not *just* cashing in on their middle age or trying to land fat government contracts.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:24 AM on September 4, 2015 [17 favorites]

That, collecting data, and selling advertising.
posted by box at 5:30 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had to mod one of my web apps last week to remove calls to the Google Books API because it started to behave erratically. Sigh. It was great while it lasted.
posted by trunk muffins at 5:39 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Every friend and family member that asks for a 'free alternative' to a software/service recommendation I give is getting a link to this post.
posted by DigDoug at 5:44 AM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've always assumed that Google couldn't buy Twitter so they bought and killed its most likely competitor to simplify the micro-blogging problem space for themselves.
posted by comealongpole at 5:46 AM on September 4, 2015

(apologies if my kneejerk cynici$M is showing, I did a lot of Slashdot in the '00s and still get flashbacks)
posted by comealongpole at 5:50 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

i wonder what the deal is with Google scholar. I don't understand how it continues along, but they can't even be bothered to update the logo.
posted by humanfont at 5:55 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm told that Google Scholar is operated by just 4 employees. I'm hoping the higher-ups just forget it's still there.
posted by escabeche at 6:02 AM on September 4, 2015 [12 favorites]

Stop talking about Scholar! Someone is going to read it and decide to shut it down. "We fixed the glitch."
posted by Literaryhero at 6:06 AM on September 4, 2015 [21 favorites]

or install the add on to Chrome (full of bugs, small non resizeable windows, not a proper app, needs the browser running to work).

This "upgrade" really killed me too. I never used the desktop app, but used it inside of gmail, and for a few weeks after that upgrade all of the gTalk features were broken and didn't integrate with google voice properly.

What I found out is that there's two official google hangouts apps for Chrome, one is terrible and awful, and the other one is pretty good. It's possible that you have the "pretty good" one installed, but just in case you don't, it's here.

I just went to try and find the old one, but it's gone. But worth checking to make sure you have the "better" one.
posted by mayonnaises at 6:21 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

kersplunk: What do other people do on Windows btw?

Miranda IM
handles GTalk just fine. And lots of other protocols.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and RIP googledesktop. You made my workflow, so, so much easier. Windows Search ain't got nothing on you.
posted by mayonnaises at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's always Year Zero in Silicon Valley.
posted by gwint at 6:29 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Google Answers! What a flashback. I read there compulsively at my first desk job. Had completely forgotten about it.

And Feedly may be prettier but it's still no match for Reader #neverforget
posted by shepard at 6:35 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Google+ may be primarily thought of as a blunder in the social media wars, but it's such a big part of the online tabletop RPG scene that I'm actively worried that it might get axed. It winds up being a much better platform than Facebook, and the new Collections functionality is awesome at letting you follow people selectively. (We play games on Hangouts but also actively share a ton of links and photos.) At least it got a new ugly logo with the last logo change.

I still see the scars of Google Reader in my Blogger referrer links. It seems like Feedly won out in the long run.
posted by graymouser at 6:35 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Why isn't there a graveyard for Google SMS?? Losing that wonderful little tool was a major reason why I decided to make the jump from my flip phone to a smart phone.
posted by numaner at 6:43 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Anyone know what the best way to get years of messages out of Google Voice is? I'm assuming I'm going to need to know that sometime soon-ish...
posted by weston at 6:54 AM on September 4, 2015

One service Google hasn't updated in ages is Google Finance. It's still using Flash and the dev blog stopped updating in 2012 (saying updates will be posted to the search blog). This one is weird to me because if anything seems like it would be capable of being monetized it's something that gets used by people who have money. It's one of the few spaces where Yahoo has the better and more popular product.
posted by Percolate at 6:56 AM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

For those of still jonesing for Google Reader, I wrote a Firefox extension that is a clone of the look & feel (minus some of the social sharing aspects I personally never used). I've been using it privately for the past few years, but the recent Firefox extension signing nonsense has forced me to put it on Addons, so if you have any interest you can find it here. It will eventually wind its way through the approval process to be a real grown-up extension.

It synchronizes your reading history between multiple browsers by piggybacking on Firefox synch, but otherwise runs entirely in your browser, so you don't run the risk of another Google Reader-like shutdown (as you do with some of the other alternatives).
posted by srt19170 at 7:06 AM on September 4, 2015 [10 favorites]

iGoogle was my start page for quite some time. I had my GMail inbox (until I enabled some security setting that made it unavailable), weather, RSS of a national newspaper plus a few other news outlets and a currency converter, then two tabs for music and friends' blogs RSS feeds.
By the time it went out, I already had moved to permanently open gmail and facebook tabs, but I wish it was something they'd implement on Chrome.
posted by lmfsilva at 7:08 AM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

In the end, the death of Google Reader sparkled a resurgence in RSS readers as was cautiously predicted in the months before its dead; the other option being quick death of RSS.
I tried most alternatives on that list, and the best clone of GR was (is?) Inoreader which has actually surpassed GR in several functionalities.
Even search, while still a bit slower than GR, works as expected.
posted by Akeem at 7:37 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've never managed to identify the very first source of the quote, "There is no cloud. It's just someone else's computer." I suppose with an important enough warning, you just naturally pass it on without bothering about attribution.
posted by roystgnr at 7:40 AM on September 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

I built a Google service that got shut down; the 2002-era search API. They shut it down soon after I left the company and no one even thought to tell me. :tear:

I admire the way Google explicitly kills some services. They aren't going to run everything they build forever! I think it's far better to declare something over and just end it, let everyone move on. Most shutdowns have had a responsible 6+ month wind-down period. Google Code is a good example of a proper shutdown.

What I think is awful is when a product languishes without updates, as the code slowly rots. Google Groups is the most painful example I can think of at the moment. Either build that product right or get the hell out of the way so that a new generation of products can take over.

Some insidery gossip on things raised here, rumors I hear that could quite possibly be wrong. Google Scholar is safe as long as Google employees rely on it. GWT is probably dead, although some internal products rely on it so they have to maintain it for awhile. Dart is similarly dead. I don't know the status of Google Talk; the whole IM product space is more or less defunct which seems crazy to me. I have no idea what's going on with Google Finance or Google Voice.

Google+ is the big elephant in the room here, both the stillborn + service itself and the way it infected and ruined product strategy for so many other products. I think Picasa is the biggest victim here, although everyone who uses Google+ Photos really likes it so maybe that's a net win? Anyway Google+ itself is mostly on the winddown, as has been publically documented. But it achieved its main success which was getting everyone to create a Google login. That's a bell that will never be unrung.
posted by Nelson at 8:11 AM on September 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

Yeah, lmfsilva, iGoogle really fit in well with my life. I basically stopped reading webcomics once it became disabled. Other reading methods just didn't work well for me, personally.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:11 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I admire the way Google explicitly kills some services. They aren't going to run everything they build forever!

Well no one does! But most companies would give their out-of-favor products a bit more of a tail. Reader wasn't huge, but it was still large, and with all the web folks who loved it it was a good prestige project, running it was a goodwill gesture to the community, and it even took a little bit of a bite out of Twitter while it existed (I would never have gotten started with Twitter if Google Reader were still around). It was quoted in these parts shortly before the shutdown that it was believed within Google that the Reader folks were the only people in Google who understood social. So what they did, those super-geniuses at Google, is kill it, and prop up Google Plus in its place.

And the thing about Google Plus is everyone except the guys at Google, those very super-geniuses who were pushing it, saw its eventual failure coming. It was sheer Microsoft-level hubris, a huge company throwing its weight around, cashing out user good will for purposes of corporate strategy and nothing else. No one (except RPGers, let's be fair) needed or wanted Plus but Google decided to ram it down our throats, and they harmed so many products along the way. And when they kill Plus even the RPGers then will hate Google.
posted by JHarris at 8:23 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree that it was a shame they shut down Google Reader. The folks who make strategy at Google have never given a shit about "prestige project" and "goodwill gesture", though, those were never reasons to keep it around. And I fear Google+ was the baby that had to kill its rival uncle Google Reader. Squandered opportunity IMHO.

Sadly I think Google probably called it right that RSS is a dead product area. With the Reader shutdown new RSS readers now do have a market. I pay for Feedly myself and it's good. But as a product category RSS is definitely not growing. Which is really too bad, I prefer the RSS architecture to walled garden Twitter feeds and Facebook activity feeds.
posted by Nelson at 8:33 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's some strange, long-forgotten bits of Google that keep chugging along presumably with no-one at the helm.

Back in the dark early days of digital television in Australia, there was no Electronic Programme Guide. At best, there was only the Now & Next info (which, more often than not, was broken anyway - for a couple of memorable months, 10's N&N claimed they were showing Benny Hinn non-stop.) PVRs were starting to appear on the market, and everybody had heard of Tivo in the US - but, without an EPG, PVRs were nothing but a glorified VCR and Tivo an unattainable dream.

By a quirk of Oz copyright law collations of information are copyrightable, and the networks here had long farmed out the collation of program guides to a 3rd party (HWW - later bought out by NineMSN, now part of the evil bastards at Gracenote). Creating the TV guides for the newspapers was HWW's cash-cow, and the networks were deathly afraid of PVRs ("People might record shows rather than watch them live! Worse - they might skip the ads! If we allow them to do that the world will collapse, cats & dogs living together, etc!"), so they came down hard on anyone who even looked like distributing an 'unauthorised' TV guide. Especially people who distributed it electronically...

(Famously, back when Nine still owned HWW, Microsoft - their joint venture partner in NineMSN - were unable to get access to TV guide data for Windows Media Center. People might use it to record & pirate TV, y'see, and not even the MS juggeraut could get between a network executive and his advertising revenue, so WMC was DOA in Australia...)

Another famous example was IceTV. The clever folks there - including Peter Vogel, inventor of the Fairlight CMI (the world's first computerised sampling synthesiser) - noticed that many shows such as the news, current affairs, soaps, etc. were on at the same time and on the same channels each day! Once they had this revelation, it was a simper matter of filling in the gaps by watching the station promos & ads, typing it all into a computer, and bingo! Australia's first EPG was born.

Of course, this couldn't go unchallenged. Nine/HWW spent 3 years taking IceTV to court - first, losing in the Federal court, then winning an appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court, before the High Court overturned that and handed victory to IceTV.

Meanwhile, Nine/HWW were playing whack-a-mole with enterprising fans - those who had imported Tivos & modified them to suit PAL analogue broadcasts, owned PVRs (e.g. the famous Topfield TF5000-PVRt) that could be loaded with an external EPG, or were simply intent of getting WMC working properly - who had started their own EPG services. Some they sued, some they threatened to sue, some they simply threatened their ISPs and had their domains revoked - and, all the while, they were fighting an ongoing battle with people writing screen-scrapers to harvest programme guide info from the network & newspaper websites.

And that battle raged! One of the more successful anti-screen-scraper tricks was to render the guide as an image - so the screen-scraper folks developed a sudden interest in OCR. The network's response to that was to separate the original image into several transparent layers by each carrying random pixels from the original, then overlay them for display - it could be read on-screen, but a computer would have to collate the image layers (which had randomised filenames, randomised X-Y offsets, and other tricks to make it difficult) before OCR-ing it into text.

But the most successful was the one that News Ltd used - javascript encryption. Multiple encryption types, each page access generating a different key, obfuscated self-decrypting javascript, rate limiting & blocking repeated requests from individual IPs, blocking access from web services like Readability & Instapaper, etc - the brainchild of one of the guys behind Whirlpool, it was probably the most successful of the lot. To scrape that, you'd need to build a full modern browser engine into your scraper. People tried & failed; the existing implementations in PHP/PERL/Python simply weren't up to the job. Except...

News Ltd. in those days still weren't afraid of Google. In fact, they relied on Google to drive traffic to their websites, and one of the biggest drivers after the news headlines was the TV guide pages. Sure, they blocked Google Translate (which can be used as a rendering proxy) - but they didn't want to block Google itself. And Google was smart enough to implement a full javacript engine in its webcrawler, so that pages that relied entirely on javascript-generated content would be indexed.

Into this comes a younger Pinback. Kicking back in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the battery tests on the roadside cabinet he was working on to finish themselves, he picked up the Ericsson phone work had given him, fired up the rudimentary web-browser, and went looking to see what was on TV that night. Being a base-model barely-featured pre-smartphone 'featurephone', he was surprised to find that News Ltd's TV guide worked. Thinking about it, he realised it was down to Google Mobilizer - a Google site/service that translated full-featured websites to suit text-only mobile browsers. Hmmm...

By next morning, he'd written a screen-scraper that used Google Mobilizer as a proxy to render News Ltd's guide pages, store the info in a database, and convert it to XMLTV & Topfield format. At first he played it safe - only grabbing enough info for his own needs - but within a few months he was one of several people feeding complete TV guide data for every TV market in Australia to the couple of remaining 'free' EPG services. And somehow he'd got it nearly right the first time - that scraper kept working, with only minor changes, until the networks started broadcasting a full EIT EPG about 3 years later.

If you were in Australia & used WMC, a hacked Tivo, or loaded guide data into your Toppy 5000 between about 2005 & 2008, chances are you were using at least some of that guide data ;).

That was 7 or 8 years ago, and the scraper hasn't been run in about 5 years. News Ltd in Oz don't even seem to have a TV guide on their website anymore - but when the scraper was fired up one last time earlier this year it found the hidden pages still being updated, and worked like like it was 2008 all over again.

Please, nobody remind Google that Google Mobilizer is still running. They might decide to shut it down...
posted by Pinback at 8:41 AM on September 4, 2015 [46 favorites]

srt19170: "It synchronizes your reading history between multiple browsers by piggybacking on Firefox synch, but otherwise runs entirely in your browser, so you don't run the risk of another Google Reader-like shutdown (as you do with some of the other alternatives)."

Yeah... about that...
posted by Rhaomi at 8:59 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Google Finance is, to me, one of the most mystifying things out there. There are hundreds of millions of retail investors in the world to monetize.

There are hundreds of thousands of academics, journalists and staff for less-well-resourced institutional investors who can't afford a Reuters terminal, to say the least of a Bloomberg terminal, but would gladly pay up (in one way or another) for a "prosumer" level of service.

It's a VAST profit opportunity ... and crickets.
posted by MattD at 9:04 AM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Nelson: Sadly I think Google probably called it right that RSS is a dead product area ... as a product category RSS is definitely not growing. Which is really too bad...

I read this just after this post by John Gruber - the RSS infrastructure is still alive and kicking, and even growing, but in the background, I guess. I never understood how Twitter etc. was supposed to replace RSS - if everyone uses links shared on social media, how do the links get on social media in the first place? Yeah, everyone's a "curator". Blech.

As for the topic on hand: I still have a Google Voice number that rings my mobile but I'm drifting away from handing it out because it sure feels like the walking dead. I still have keys to an old Blogger site from before the Google buyout and abandonment (blogs? That's so 2005). I briefly had an Orkut account before it was cool. And I'll never forgive them for the Google Reader fiasco. Yeah, Google is a company with a short attention sp

(I do love that username.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sadly I think Google probably called it right that RSS is a dead product area.

RSS is one of the the worst cludges ever, but it still works better than anything else for aggregation. I don't think there's anything really to replace it. Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest and their proprietary interfaces can't die in a fire quick enough for me. Why isn't possible to have a "new stuff you like (and stuff you might like)" start page? It's fucking 2015, not 2005.

I had (and continue to have) some faint hope for the Now product, but it's nowhere near powerful enough yet.
posted by bonehead at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am thirding people's statements that RSS ain't dead yet. Twitter is by no means a replacement. Nothing we've yet seen is. The fewer people use RSS, in fact, the more valuable it will be to those of us who rely on it, because it is great for finding stuff to post about that other people have overlooked. And blogs, too, are a way of publishing content that people have called "dead," yet I've not seen any replacement that isn't locked-down, proprietary, and worse.

If it's useful, the right people will use it. The right people are often not everyone, but that doesn't mean they aren't important.
posted by JHarris at 10:42 AM on September 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

As for the dangers of jumping immediately onto the new ship, and immediately chasing whatever the "digerati" are doing, go back to the top and click on that Jaiku Venturebeat article, because it is wonderful, so many things that were proven bad in retrospect. Even the graph in that article showing Jaiku about to "overtake" Twitter is amazing, it's fluctuating so wildly from month to month that it's obviously unreliable.

And if they were going to beat Twitter at their own game we'll never know, because Google took them off-line to "focus on innovation instead of scaling" and quickly became a laughable footnote mocked on the internet by idiots like me.
posted by JHarris at 10:54 AM on September 4, 2015

Pinback's comment is terrific! Flagged as fantastic.
posted by JHarris at 11:01 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm saying RSS is dead the way I was saying Usenet is dead back in 2000. There's historical irony here; "Usenet is dying" was an old trope going back to the 1980s. But Usenet really did die, around 2000. It's still around; NNTP is a very popular medium for pirating TV and there's even a few social Usenet groups that still have active discussions. Google Groups still does its shitty job of being a Usenet reader. But no one would argue that Usenet is a vital social medium today. I'm saying RSS/blogs are in the same place now that usenet was back in 2000. And that shutting down Google Reader was probably a strategic recognition of that inveitability, although I think an argument could also be made that the Google Reader shutdown is part of why RSS is dying. (Of course the irony here is that Google Blogger is still going strong; it gets a lot of ad views.)

All of you claiming RSS isn't dead are saying it shouldn't be dead. I agree, RSS and Atom are good open tech, and better than the proprietary systems like Facebook and Twitter. But Facebook and Twitter both offer products that work very similarly to what we nerds use RSS for. And they are used by, literally, hundreds to thousands of times as many people as RSS ever was. Ordinary people use Facebook activity feeds to keep up with updates for their friends, their favorite businesses, etc. The blogerati have become the Twitterati and it's an old saw now to talk about how tweets have replaced blogs for sharing ideas. Meantime what "blog" means to most people now is shovel-content like Gawker or whatever that publishes 50+ articles a day for ad views.

Gruber is right to point out RSS has found use in a new medium, Podcasts. That's clearly a growing category. But podcasting's use of RSS is a disjoint product category from RSS-for-text-articles. I also think the fact RSS happens to be the update technology is something of a historical accident. I keep expecting Apple to pull the rug out from under that any day now. OOTH Apple seems to be abandoning Podcasts the way Google abandoned Google Reader. (Oh the irony, how Apple Podcasts killed Odeo and then Odeo spawned Twitter.)

I still use the old RSS. I still write an old school blog with periodic updates. I still keep up with friends' blogs via Feedly, and use RSS to view other media like Pinboard links and yes, even the occasional hyperactive nublog like Rock Paper Shotgun. But I don't have any belief I'm part of some growing product category. I'm an old.
posted by Nelson at 11:04 AM on September 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

It is a mistake, sometimes, to try to draw lateral lines connecting these things, to say X is the new (or old) Y. Usenet is a community thing and those get exponentially better the more people that use them, and is a service with its own ports, and separate servers to collect, forward and archive the data. RSS doesn't require most of that. So long as sites continues to offer it, my feedreader will collect it, and for my purposes that's good enough even if no one else uses it. It can only really be killed if the blogging platforms decide to sunset it and/or the newsreaders go away, those are dangers, but they haven't happened yet.

There is an alternate universe out there where Google didn't kill Reader but decided to back it, and didn't eliminate its popular sharing feature but expanded it. It is a nice universe; the grass is 26% greener over there. It is not our universe, though, and yet in our dark dimension I still can use RSS. Other people use it too. Metafilter is also old tech (ColdFusion is twenty years old) but I kind of like it.
posted by JHarris at 11:16 AM on September 4, 2015

All of you claiming RSS isn't dead are saying it shouldn't be dead.

I was simply saying that we haven't got anything to replace it. Facebook works in FB's world. Twitter only encourages interaction with other twitter users and so on. It's increasingly harder to move between or participate across communities. If your social/interest group uses Pinterest, that becomes your primary tool for finding new stuff.

In the last ten years, "sticky" social sites have made the world smaller than it was, not bigger. We have more, and more fragmented partial communities with higher walls built of incompatible technology. It's like we've regressed back to the early 90's: are you on Compuserve, AOL or the Well? Are you a Usenetter or on FIDO? We had a brief run in the fields of interoperability between 1995 and 2005, but now we're all safely back in corporate lockdown, mooing our way to our final destinations.
posted by bonehead at 11:50 AM on September 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

The date of Usenet's death is more or less the date at which whomever is speaking got tired of Usenet as an online community.
posted by ardgedee at 12:39 PM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Google Keep is indeed quite useful as a notes tool that syncs across devices. Also very very very useful: Google Patent Search. It's not always as current as the USPTO website, but damn if it's not infinitely easier to use. Google Scholar is also extremely useful as an alternative to paid services like SciFinder.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:06 PM on September 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sadly I think Google probably called it right that RSS is a dead product area. With the Reader shutdown new RSS readers now do have a market. I pay for Feedly myself and it's good. But as a product category RSS is definitely not growing. Which is really too bad, I prefer the RSS architecture to walled garden Twitter feeds and Facebook activity feeds.

Except Google didn't call this in the sense that they responded to an existing phenomenon. They called it in the sense that they poured resources into creating the situation. They ate the infrastructure and then they destroyed it.

I can never think about this without reference to jscott's now-classic statement on Yahoo:
All I can say, looking back, is that when history takes a look at the lives of Jerry Yang and David Filo, this is what it will probably say:

Two graduate students, intrigued by a growing wealth of material on the Internet, built a huge fucking lobster trap, absorbed as much of human history and creativity as they could, and destroyed all of it.

Great work, guys.
Google isn't alone here. Sundry of our corporate overlords have collectively and with remarkable unanimity decided that RSS (which continues to exist as niche technology within the professional internet nerd community only because there is nothing remotely like a suitable replacement and we are stubborn) is a mechanism which must be expunged from the user experience of the internet to suit their own purposes of silo-ization and control. Google isn't alone, but they sure do come in for one giant slice of blame.

Of course I don't think that the people who built Reader set out to accomplish anything of the sort. Quite the opposite at the time, I'm sure. But here's object lesson number infinity on how handing over all the software to somebody else with a datacenter is the Law of Unintended Consequence's best friend. See also: Pretty much every other consumer-level offering Google has ever built or will ever build.

God damn do I gotta get off GMail.
posted by brennen at 3:53 PM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Came here for the headline, since it's one I actually have a stake in, and my answer is this:

"Google Glass: 2013-whenever we get something better"

Thing is, and I think (And it actually seems like) Google is realising this, Glass is a great product, but it is very much like a hacksaw: perfect if you have a need for it, not so usefull if you don't.

To state that another way: Glass is a TOOL, like a hammer, but you don't see everyone walking around with a hammer on their belt, unless you're at a jobsite.

When I almost accidentally got my first unit, it was one of the first in the country. And after using it and wondering about it and after the cool-factor wore off, it's uses and limitation became apparent. It was nothing more and nothing less than EXACTLY what Google thought it was: a handsfree glanceable information device.

-skipable rant-
Consumers started getting bad press in the form of 'glasshole'-itis. But that was and is unfair bullshit: for one, it is VERY noticable when you're using it, so there is no issue of 'well, you never know what they're doing!'. That's like saying the same thing about someone who grabs their phone in the middle of a conversation ... ie, you don't because it's an odd thing to say.
Secondly the privacy argument is idiotic. As said, it's very obvious that you're interfacing with Glass, even moreso when taking a picture or a video. Any mobile phone is so much more a privacy risk, most of all because they are so ubiquitous that a phone in the shirt pocket is not commented on even though it could be recording; not only is Glass so very obviously worn, but it is also obvious in use. And let's be honest, anyone wanting to record secretly can buy a video/picture pen for $20.
-end of rant-

And it's all irrelevant, anyway. The projects I'm doing with Glass are in professional settings. We've run trials with crusty, carmudgeonly older construction workers, hanging off the side of buildings on large construction sites and they LOVE what it can do. We have buy-in from the guy on the ground to the board of a multinational construction company.
We've recently bought a large number of Glass units for larger scale field trials at multiple locations in the manufacturing industry.

Glass is a business tool, not necessarily a consumer product. And looking at the news/rumours of Glass 1.5 (better battery, larger screen), it seems Google is kinda realising that, even though they seem to be chasing consumer success with their partnerships with fashion/design agencies.

And there may actually be some truth to that. I remember back in the end of 2013 when I had a Glass on when I went to pick up a pizza at Domino's: the young-uns there went nuts over it! One girl (16?17?) actually said to her boyfriend: "screw my drivers license, I want one of those!". And, come to think of it, that does fit into the youth twitter/selfie/instant status-update mentality.

And, hey, people pay good money for those huge, in-your-face Beats headphones.

But their strategy was all wrong for that. You either finish a product and make it perfect, in which case you CAN do the 'oh, it's so exclusive/cool' campaign and make bank when you finally sell it. Or you realise it's a beta product and do it a whole lot more understated and let the geeks and devs develop it into a great product which you then sell. But you can't have your cake and eat it: you can't have this exclusive product which is actually in beta and not really worth it yet and expect it to stay cool and exclusive before you sell a couple of them. That's how you create a backlash.

Glass is a great example of Google not knowing where the money is. Hell, I have three great idea's to monetise services Google provides ... I actually have a business relationship with Google now. And I still couldn't even begin to think of how to get those ideas realised with Google, which means they might actually discontinue those avenues for monetisation!
posted by MacD at 5:43 PM on September 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just realized it looks a bit like I'm harping on Nelson here, who after all did used to work at Google whereas I am just a random internet layabout. Sorry about that, I just really like RSS, heh.
posted by JHarris at 5:56 PM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd like to mention here the deprecation of the Youtube v2 API, which they finally turned off around May of this year. It used to be that it was a breeze to get an RSS feed of a user's uploads: https://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/base/users/USERNAME/uploads. And, as far as I can recall, it was also relatively straightforward to get an RSS feed of your own subscriptions. (I only used the former, not the latter, so I can't really comment on that.)

But alas, Google decided that that v2 API was just too darn simple, and that everyone must use the v3 API. You can still get a RSS feed of a youtube channel, but it's very poorly documented: https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?user=USERNAME. There are also similar urls for Channel IDs and Playlist IDs. But alas, these feeds suck. They contain just the title and date — no thumbnails, description, or anything that would be actually useful. The old feed contained all that. I just shake my head in disbelief that anyone at Youtube and/or Google thought that this was a good idea. They took a perfectly good feature that draws more people into their site, and (a) broke all old URLs to it, and (b) neutered it of all useful information.

If you're like me and rely on RSS for taming Youtube, don't fear. Sombody hacked together a service that uses the v3 API to create a real feed that contains all the missing stuff. (And it even has 50 items, not the paltry 15 of the stock feed.) But still, the idea that this should even be necessary is insane. What ever happened to categorizing the world's information?
posted by Rhomboid at 6:05 PM on September 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I installed the Youtube v3 RSS service for that same reason. The fact that I have to use my hosting provider to provide a proper RSS feed for Youtube is ridiculous, and another example of the trend toward RSS being an unwanted stepchild. All over the web, feeds that used to contain full post content are being swapped out for teasers that contain the title and maybe a paragraph so you click through to the (monetized) pages instead of getting the content for free (barring ads in the RSS content) through RSS. I can't even get an RSS feed for Charles Pierce at Esquire, formerly one of my favorite bloggers, so you know what? I don't read him anymore unless he's linked somewhere else. I used to do my own web scraping / feed creation using Python, and I still do for a few things, but I'm tired of it, so Esquire can go fuck themselves.

Obviously this was all bound to happen, but it's still frustrating. So of course many readers (InoReader and several desktop/mobile clients) will helpfully load the full content from the web and render it in the app, but I'm sure the content providers will start trying to block that as well.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:14 PM on September 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

MacD: "We've run trials with crusty, carmudgeonly older construction workers, hanging off the side of buildings on large construction sites and they LOVE what it can do."

I don't know if I'd self identify as a crusty and curmudgeonly but providing documentation like termination diagrams via google glass instead of laptops or printed docs is such an obvious win I am really surprised it hasn't saturated the market yet.
posted by Mitheral at 6:21 PM on September 4, 2015

I tell you, we've been using an older GoPro rig to make instrument maintenance videos since 2010, and, while it produces great results, it's a pain to mount, and a bit fussy to wear. It's a shoulder holster for the main body of the camera, with a fibre optic cable that snakes behind and over an ear and clips to the side piece of a goggle. The operator needs to wear a mike too---we've found that a gamers headset works pretty well for the price (and can mount the fibre optic too). But people call it the borg rig and it's not hugely comfortable to wear for a couple of hours.

I'd love to be able to try glass, but that's not on our approved IT procurement list at the moment.
posted by bonehead at 1:33 AM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

We have a client where I work that manufactures and maintains wind turbines. Since there is hardware approximately 300 feet up in these turbines, Google Glass would be useful for the technicians to be able to access manuals and take pictures when they're at the top. We actually wrote up a proposal for this but it never went through. Google Glass is specialist hardware that wants desperately to be a lifestyle gadget, which is an awful mix. Hopefully someone else who actually understands the use case will fill the niche at some point.
posted by graymouser at 6:29 AM on September 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I still miss Google Wave.

It was such a perfect way to do committee hiring, where everyone could store notes, artifacts, documents, etc. all in one place and see what other committee members had to say about the candidates. I haven't found a really good replacement yet.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:54 AM on September 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wave was a faaaantastic remote RPG platform.
posted by bonehead at 10:22 AM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Glass at Work program is all that remains of Glass these days, but their partner capabilities seem stretched very thin. You pretty much have to work with an existing Glassware development company (I think there are two these days).
I spent a year writing Glassware after the initial explorer launch and had about 20 units in my lab. It was maddening to see how Google had something that was so close to being awesome, but couldn't seem to get the product management in place to guide it home.
posted by humanfont at 11:39 AM on September 8, 2015

Maybe the tech isn't there yet (like with the Newton and iPaqs) but someone is going to end up running with this and making a shit load of money, I just hope it isn't a closed shop like Apple.
posted by Mitheral at 12:42 PM on September 8, 2015

I still miss Google Wave.

Google open-sourced it and the Apache Foundation has taken it on. There doesn't seem to be a huge amount of activity on it any more, but the website points to running instances (now gone, as far as I can tell) so it's probably possible to get an instance of it working.
posted by suetanvil at 10:00 AM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

@humanfront: Well, Glassware seems to be the problem. We write native code to glass and are in no way dependent on Google except for the hardware. And that was initially a problem: I tried to get us into the Glass for work program in 2013, but couldn't.

After a big push some months ago, we finally got into a business relationship with Google on this front, but it took some doing: at one point we were going at it from at least three different directions and I'm not sure if any of those were finally the point of entry or if re-entering the dumb Glass for Work signup form for the so-many-eth time was what did it.

We're not yet a Glass partner (but will be soon, if the current trials go well and we order enough extra units), but we do have two large partners we do Glass dev for.

Even though it does seem Google is still trying to push Glass into the consumer market, maybe they are slowly realising it's a business tool. And a really handy one if you have the niche to fill; maybe even the only tool which can do it. Google just has to realise that it accidentally built a great TOOL and run with that.

@Mitheral: the tech is ALMOST there. All it needs is a bigger battery and a even more rugged formfactor and it can be used in a lot of places. Hell, it can be used to great effect in a lot of places right now.
I'm guessing if they waterproof it, add a bigger battery and make the camera/cameraview less of a battery drain they have a product which can sell itself with the right software.
posted by MacD at 2:54 PM on September 10, 2015

For us a bigger battery isn't as much of an issue as it will be in other markets as long as it can strap to our hard hats. Heck pair the device with an LED light that everyone has anyways and a recharge li-ion battery wouldn't necessarily even be much of a weight add. Rain resistance though is a requirement. Also the device needs to strap or clip to the hard hat as we can't use adhesives or drill holes in it. Or coordinate with North/MSA or someone to have them make an integrated clip/holder/set of holes on the brim. Or integrate the Glass holder with a set of bluetooth headphone earmuffs that fit the existing side clip holes.
posted by Mitheral at 6:19 PM on September 10, 2015

Good points, Mitheral: a perfect hardhat fit is essential to the industrial use of Glass. The real win would be if they designed it so that when you unscrew the band it could clip on to safety goggles.

Even so, our trials have shown us that Glass in its current state actually does fit decently comfortable under a hardhat and earprotectors, although shy of what it needs to be. And they're decently waterproof, as evidenced by they guy who actually took a shower with them and the fact that they survive literal downpours of rain. But yeah, they would have to be certified IPX to be really used in construction. And idealy be hardhat/hearing-protection/safety goggles compatible.
posted by MacD at 1:57 PM on September 11, 2015

I was one of the lucky few who managed to publish glassware before the explorer program shutdown and one of the first ones using the SDK instead of the Mirror API. So I understand your plight. My impression was that it was a lot of smart people with passion and excitement, but very little of the product management and partnership maturity you see at a place like Apple. I remember working on some iPad stuff under NDA before that came out in contrast and it the comparison was night and day.
posted by humanfont at 6:52 PM on September 12, 2015

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