Google prunes unpopular services from its portfolio

Google will either shut down or stop supporting several free Web-based services and applications as it retrenches its engineering resources.

Google will either shut down or stop supporting several free Web-based services as it retrenches its engineering resources.

Some of the services suffered from low popularity or, as in the case of Google Video, were made somewhat redundant by another Google property, YouTube. Still, the changes show that even Google -- a company that has seen torrid growth and success over the last decade -- is looking to streamline its operations with some prudent trimming and take fewer risks in a dire economy.

The company detailed the changes on several blogs late Wednesday. In one of the more notable changes, Google has decided to stop developing Jaiku, a microblogging platform, and has opted to release its code as an open-source project under an Apache license.

Google bought Jaiku in 2007. Jaiku lets people post short messages online, via instant messaging and on mobile phones, similar in concept to the competing Twitter service. The new "Jaiku Engine" project is being ported to the Google App Engine, the company's platform for scalable Web services. It also will support OAuth, an authentication mechanism for applications exchanging data.

"We're excited about developers using this proven code as a starting point in creating a freely available and federated, open-source microblogging platform," wrote Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering.

Gundotra also detailed two services that will end: the Mashup Editor, an AJAX development framework for building Web-based applications that has been superseded by the App Engine; and Dodgeball.com, a mobile social networking site.

In other changes, Google within a few months will stop letting users upload to Google Video, a free service launched in 2006. Later that year, Google bought YouTube, which has become the company's dominant video property. Clips will not be removed from Video and the service will be more focused on search.

"We've always maintained that Google Video's strength is in the search technology that makes it possible for people to search videos from across the Web, regardless of where they may be hosted," wrote Michael Cohen, a Google product manager.

Google is nixing Catalog Search, a service that lets people see and search the full text of catalogs that had been scanned using optical character recognition technology. Google said the project helped it refine how it can make the full text of books available online, but overall the service wasn't very popular, wrote Punit Soni, a product manager.

The company will also stop working on Google Notebook, although it will keep the service running for registered users. Notebook is an online organizational tool where people can create notes and share them, among other features. Again, many features are duplicated in other Google services.

The changes come as Google said on Wednesday it will lay off 100 job recruiters. The company also plans to close engineering offices in Texas, Norway and Sweden, moving 70 engineers to other offices to better coordinate development efforts, it said.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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