Failure to Launch: Google Research Datasets

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-12-19 Print this article Print

Google Research Datasets, we didn't even know thee.

Consistent with CEO Eric Schmidt's pledge to cut experimental projects in the weakening economy, Google today, Dec. 19, confirmed that it is shelving Google Research Datasets, an experimental project for storing terabytes of open-source scientific data sets for life sciences, pharmaceuticals and other fields.

A Google spokesperson quoted some of an e-mail sent to beta testers of the project:

We've recently decided not to launch this, but to instead focus our efforts on other activities such as Google Scholar, our Research Programs, and publishing papers about research here at Google. As you know, Google is a company that promotes experimentation with innovative new products and services. At the same time, we have to carefully balance that with ensuring that our resources are used in the most effective possible way to bring maximum value to our users.

Given what Schmidt has said publicly about axing certain projects, that's code for, "Eric decided it was a waste of time and valuable computing resources given the lousy economic climate and shelved it."

Wired Science's Alexis Madrigal scored the scoop on the cancellation here, thanks to an e-mail Google sent beta testers of the project. The project was pretty hush-hush within Google, where it was code-named Palimpsests.

Madrigal noted that Research Datasets was first revealed by Google engineer Jon Trowbridge at SciFoo (Science Foo) 2007. Here are Trowbridge's slides and here is a video presentation on the Archimedes Palimpsest data set.

Some 30 data sets were uploaded to the Google Research site, including 120TB of Hubble Space Telescope data. That's potentially a lot of data that's no longer going to clog up Google's servers, which are taxed enough as it is. No wonder it was canned.

Research Datasets is the third Google project to get 86ed in the latter months of 2008, following the closure of its SearchMash search results test and the abandonment of its Lively virtual reality program.

Google's data centers are clearly getting a tad lighter. What other projects do you envision Google cutting in 2009? |

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