Two weeks into the new year and the “dark matter” projects Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the company would eliminate have continued to come to the fore, paired with the layoff of 100 recruiters and the move of 70 engineers to other facilities.
After shuttering its Lively virtual reality, SearchMash and Research DataSets late last year, Google Jan. 14 said it is shutting down: Google Video, Google Notebook, Google Catalogs, the Dodgeball mobile social networking service and the Google Mashup Editor.
The company’s Jaiku service, an alternative to wildly popular Twitter, is being moved to Google App Engine, with its code being released as an open-source project on Google Code under an Apache License, Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering wrote in a blog post.
Programmers will then be able to use the open source Jaiku Engine project to create their own microblogging services and deploy them on Google App Engine. Incidentally, it is in favor of the more advanced App Engine that Mashup Editor is being nixed. Mashup Editor applications will stop receiving traffic in six months, so users should get ready to move to App Engine.
Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan details the closures here, while TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb weigh in.
RWW’s Frederic Lardinois notes that the Google Video closure is hardly a shocker given the success of YouTube, while the darkening of Google’s Catalogs may not draw too many tears. He expressed sadness that Google Notebook, Jaiku and Dodgeball are withering away because they had potential.
Not enough potential, perhaps, to escape Schmidt’s informal “dark matter” list. Schmidt drew attention last December after telling the Wall Street Journal Google would curb the dark matter, or projects that either aren’t exciting or haven’t caught on.
These are arguably projects that could also take more away from the bottom line than it could add to it. These sites didn’t make much money and Google can’t justify paying engineers to float and extend them.
What Other Web Services Will Google Cut?
One could argue Google bought Jaiku and Dodgeball, because of the hype of social networking services, which as a whole haven’t brought in a lot of money.
While it is probable that many of the engineers on this project will be shunted off to different projects more core to Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information, Web services and applications aren’t the only thing to get trimmed.
Because Google is hiring at a reduced rate, Google Vice President of People Operations Lazlo Bock said Google needs fewer people focused on hiring. So, in addition to winding down contracts with external contractors and vendors providing recruiting services for Google, the company is eliminating 100 recruiting jobs.
Moreover, shuttering its Phoenix office and moving those engineers to other Google offices last September, Google is moving some 70 programmers from Austin, Texas; Trondheim, Norway; and Lulea, Sweden, to other facilities. Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research at Google wrote in a post:
“Our strong desire is to keep as many of these 70 engineering employees at Google as possible. However, we do recognize the upheaval and heartache that these changes may have on Google families, and that we may not be able to keep 100% of these exceptional employees.“
If the online ad market begins to drag more during the recession, financial analysts might suspect to read more of these statements from Google, which as the search ad leader is the Internet company best positioned to weather the wintry economic climate.
Google reports fourth quarter and 2008 fiscal year earnings one week from today, Jan. 22 after the bell. Expect financial analysts to be combing the earnings release and hawking Schmidt on the conference call for more detail not only into Google’s progress, but the market landscape.
The question remains: What will get cut next? Will it be public relations and sales people, or perhaps some of Google’s thousands of engineers? For services, if Jaiku is getting ported, what about Zingku, which Google bought in September 2007 as another mobile social networking service?
What fate awaits Google’s knol expert advice service? What about SearchWiki, another bid to let consumers customize search? The GrandCentral VOIP service? What is your money on to get cut next?