Cloud

Google shutters its Schemer and Notifier services

After Reader, Latitude, and iGoogle were discontinued in 2013, the powers that be at Mountain View have already axed two products just weeks into 2014.

 

google_schemer012714.png
Schemer
 Image: Google
 

Schemer, a little-publicized service from Google that allows users to "discover new things to do," is apparently no longer worth doing for Google (Schemer's tagline is "The beginning of everything worth doing"). According to the Jan. 10, 2014 post by The Schemer Team on its Google+ page, Schemer is being shuttered on Feb. 7, 2014. In the post, the team says the service offered by Schemer has been partially supplanted by the Google Maps features Explore and Field Trip.

Google Maps is itself the subject of considerable consternation, with the abrupt removal of the Search Nearby feature. Search Nearby was removed from Google Maps in an update that was rolled out last year which adds tighter integration with Google+. Google issued a workaround to the feature removal after a great deal of user complaints, but this doesn't come close to the ease or accuracy of the original Search Nearby feature, according to users. 

The abrupt removal of features or discontinuation of entire products is nothing new for Google. Google Answers, a service that allowed users to post bounties for well-researched answers to questions, was discontinued in December 2006 after four years. Code Search, Reader, Latitude, and iGoogle were all popular Google services that were abruptly discontinued without any particular replacement for their original function. In many cases, discontinued products are shoved aside for enhanced replacements, such as the closure of the mostly ignored Google Friend Connect in favor of the deeply unwanted Google Buzz, itself closed in favor of the often criticized Google+, which has burrowed into other Google services to widespread disapproval, including from the cofounder of YouTube. (Note: Google Friend Connect closed for non-Blogger sites on March 1, 2012.)

Google+ has also infected Google Talk, which has been shuttered and subsequently rebadged sans proper XMPP compatibility as Google Hangouts, and Gmail, in which Google+ connections are now valid email recipients

The rationale behind such closures are always somewhat opaque, with little business rationale provided as to why products are discontinued. Overall, the abrupt discontinuation of services at Google seems primarily motivated by a simple lack of interest in continuing to operate the service, not out of concern for legal liability or patent violations, as Google continues to litigate from legal problems surrounding the Android operating system. That isn't to say that all of the discontinued services are tragic losses: Google SMS Search and GOOG-411 have no real purpose in the age of smartphones. Gmail Notifier, a desktop widget that alerts users to a new email in their Gmail account, will be discontinued as of January 31, 2014. Google Pack, a disparate collection of software only some of which was actually produced by Google, was little more than "a bunch of stuff that Google's wrapped a rubber band around," according to RedMonk analyst James Governor.

Google's track record for tossing anything it can at potential punters and then taking it back just as quickly is starting to hurt Google's image among consumers. The record for introduction and subsequent removal is the App Ops permissions tool that launched in Android 4.3 and was removed in 4.4.2, a time of availability spanning roughly five months. The phenomenon is even widespread enough to merit a Pinterest group called Google Graveyard, which is an archive of all of Google's killed services and features.  

Up to now, the services Google offers all relate in some way to the transmission of information through the Internet or through phone lines. That is to say, Google has for the most part stuck to building products that make sense for a search company to make. This doesn't seem to be the case moving into 2014, however. The first major product announcement made by Google in the New Year comes completely out of left field: a contact lens that measures glucose levels for diabetics. In fairness, it's not the first time a technology company has made a healthcare-related product, but it is anyone's guess as to if or when this will be discontinued.

Speak out

Have you been let down by Google abruptly discontinuing a service? Are you dismayed by the slow creep of Google+ into other existing services? Let us know your thoughts about Google in the comments.

Note: TechRepublic, ZDNet, and CNET are CBS Interactive properties.

About

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware. James is currently an education major at Wichita State University in Kansas.

9 comments
MadBunny
MadBunny

One day you walk into a grocery store you frequent and there’s one of those sample tables set up….and the guy standing there is all, “Hey, you want to try some Jalapeno and Asparagus ice cream?” You answer, “Uh, no.I actually tried that last year and didn’t like it but, thanks anyway”, and walk off.

Your interaction with the ice cream sample dude is over, right? You don’t expect to hear that question again, do you? And you won’t….if you’re in Safeway or QFC or wherever.

But, if you’re in Google Grocery Mart, that guy’s going to follow you around the store and ask you, over and over again – with a big, stupid, disingenuous smile that you want to punch into the back of his skull – to try the ice cream.And he’s going to be giving you a bunch of BS like, “Hey, but your friends like it.Don’t you want them to know what you like?”

He’s even going to pull that distract-you-while-slipping-a-quart-of-the-ice-cream-in-your-cart crap.

And it’s not going to stop until you try the ice cream or you tell him to @#$@ off and leave the store.

You might think to complain to the management of the store but, they're the geniuses who came up with this brilliant idea: he’s doing exactly what they told him to. So, try it or leave.

Or stay…..but if they’ve started this “Force Feed The Ice Cream” program at Psycho Level 8, do you want to know what levels 9 and 10 are? I don’t.I’m out of there.

Now, the absurd, uncivil and unacceptable situation I just described is literally, exactly what Google just did to every YouTube user who didn’t have a g+ account and answered “No” when Google asked – in November - if you wanted to create one. (Except for the “I tried it last year” part….that only applied to me and anyone else who tried g+ and didn’t like it.)

And this is by no means, everything wrong with Google. It’s not a one time mistake.I could go on for pages about how and why they’re the worst IT company on the face of the planet.Take the self-reinstalling googleupdate.exe fiasco, for instance. These smarmy jerks make Microsoft look like a hyper-competent, customer service monastery.

But, it doesn’t matter.I’m done with these idiots. I’ve removed everything Google from my personal computers and set a rule on the AV server in my Active Directory that *google* is a virus and to take it out.

Google can go to hell.

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

I wish they would shutter Google+.

ijpoole
ijpoole

I persuaded our nonprofit organization to switch from Microsoft server-based applications to Google Apps because of the lower cost and because the feature set was compelling, especially since most of our staff was already familiar with Gmail. I get that all software programs evolve over time, and that occasionally an "improvement" for someone else won't be an improvement for me. But the random dropping and changing of features – more often then not without notice – and the creepy decisions regarding privacy is really giving me second thoughts. We did some real serious trade-offs when we ditched Outlook for Gmail/Google Apps, but that was based on the assumption that feature sets that we integrate into our workflow wouldn't suddenly disappear. But we should know better than to take for granted that what a company offers today will be around tomorrow. And always keep in mind the maxim of 21st century business: The bigger the business, the easier it is for that business to disregard its customers – at least for awhile.

C-3PO
C-3PO

About a year ago, I migrated to Gmail when I discovered that I could use my URL in my email address just like I was using my Outlook. It worked great! Especially when it integrated so nicely into all my devices.

Then they went and changed everything and all of a sudden it's like using SMS instead of email. Managing emails (sorting, retaining and filing) are very difficult. In the end I migrated to Outlook.com which itself has some issues, but it works much better over all for managing my email.

The more things change, the more time I waste moving things around from one service to another to keep the functionality, and it doesn't seem to matter if I pay for a service or not - they all change too quickly.

At the risk of sounding like a M$ fan, at least they tend to keep legacy in mind and allow backwards functionality in almost everything.

I remember reading many years ago about how Google always had products in Beta and never actually a full release. Is this just another example of running in Beta? If it fails, we can pull the plug on the thousands of users who rely on it because it was just in Beta?

junk
junk

This is THE problem with "cloud services" in general.  At least when you buy an app to run on your local machine, it's still useful even if the manufacturer changes or discontinues it. 


Google Maps was a fantastic mapping/routing program for both the PC and Android until last year when they changed it all up.  As far as my uses are concerned, it's no good at all any more, especially on Android where it's become virtually unusable on the road.  Even after 8 months of service it's still buggy, and the user interface is very inferior to the original.  On my phone I was able to roll back to the old version, but my Nexus tablet lost it when the KitKat update came in, so I'm stuck with the new one there.  Worse, they forced the update to the new version even though it's a "beta".  It's very disappointing, and aggravating.


Garrett Williams: Try gReader.  It's a good replacement for Google Reader.

Garrett Williams
Garrett Williams

I still haven't found a worthy Google Reader replacement. Feedly & Netvibes shrink comics to fit space-wasting layouts, but at least there are hacks to disable certain css code.

adornoe
adornoe

The article at Smart Planet, explains how Google "innovates".  Mostly, it's about rewarding failure, while hoping that somewhere along the way, someone will come up with a great idea.  It's the old innovation approach of: "throw a lot of things at the wall, to see what sticks".  Google has been doing that for a long time, and now they've evolved that approach towards acquiring companies that might have innovations which might be worth throwing at the wall to see if any one of them sticks. 


The SmartPlanet article and discussion: 


How Google's secretive lab innovates: rewarding failure

 http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/how-googles-secretive-lab-innovates-reward-failure/?tag=nl.e660&s_cid=e660&ttag=e660&ftag=TRE4eb29b5



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