Google closes Knol, Friend Connect and other services

Friend Connect, Knol and Search Timeline are among the services being retired

Google continues to shut down underperforming services, announcing Tuesday that Friend Connect, Knol and a few other services will soon go the way of Google Health and Google Buzz.

"We're in the process of shutting a number of products which haven't had the impact we'd hoped for, integrating others as features into our broader product efforts, and ending several which have shown us a different path forward," Urs Holzle, senior vice president of operations at Google, wrote in a blog post.

Friend Connect may be the most high-profile of the services to shut down. Google said it is "retiring" the service for all non-Blogger sites on March 1.

Friend Connect lets websites include social features on their sites so that visitors can do things like add comments, sign in, view other users and vote in polls. Shortly after Google launched Friend Connect in 2008, Facebook blocked it from accessing Facebook member data, arguing that the service redistributed Facebook data without proper user permission. The service competed with a similar one from Facebook called Facebook Connect.

Google is encouraging websites that will be affected by the shutdown of Friend Connect to create Google+ pages and include a Google+ badge on their sites to add some features from the discontinued service.

Other services to be shut down include Bookmarks Lists, which lets people share bookmarks. On Dec. 19, Google will stop supporting Bookmarks Lists. Bookmarks, a different service that lets people store and organize bookmarks, will continue to function as it has, Google said.

The company is also getting rid of Search Timeline, which can display a historical graph of results for a search query. But people can still look at search results from a specified time period using tools that appear on the left-hand side of the search page. Users can find other search trend information by visiting google.com/trends or google.com/insights/search/.

Google has decided that other organizations are better suited to researching solar power technology, so it's shutting down an initiative called Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C).

Knol, a Wikipedia-like service that lets people collaborate on writing articles, will also shut down. It will operate until April 30 and people will be able to download articles through Oct. 1, after which the site will no longer be accessible. Google has helped start another publishing platform called Annotum that it wants people to use instead.

Tuesday's announcement follows several others this year of additional Google service shutdowns. It has discontinued Buzz, Jaiku, Aardvark, Fast Flip, Sidewiki, Image Labeler, Health, PowerMeter and others.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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