Google House Cleaning Efforts Continue

Among the changes, Google users will no longer be able to select their own images to use as personalized backgrounds on, and Google Storage in Picasa and Drive will be consolidated.

Google's year-long project to cut out little-used services so the company can focus on its most popular offerings to customers continues with a new round of features that are on the chopping block.

The latest upcoming service cuts includes a myriad of Google ideas that just didn't catch on with enough users, from AdSense for Feeds to Spreadsheet Gadgets to the Places Directory Android app, according to a Sept. 28 post by Yossi Matias, Google's senior engineering director, on the Google Official Blog.

Since June 2011, Google has been paring down services that are not getting enough user traction to make them sustainable.

"Technology offers so many opportunities to help improve users’ lives," wrote Matias. "This means it is really important to focus or we end up doing too much with too little impact. So today we’re winding down a bunch more features—bringing the total to nearly 60" since Google began what it called its "spring cleaning" efforts in June 2011. "These changes will enable us to focus better so that we can do more to help improve the products that millions of people use multiple times a day."

The latest round of service cuts, according to Google, includes:

  • AdSense for Feeds, which allowed publishers to earn revenue from their content by placing ads on their RSS feeds, will start to be retired Oct. 2 and will end Dec. 3. Content publishers who used the service will be able to continue to use FeedBurner URLs powered by Google, so they won’t need to redirect subscribers to different URLs, according to Google.
  • Classic Plus, a Google Search feature that allowed users to upload or select images to use as personalized backgrounds on, will lose the service sometime in November. No more image uploads will be accepted after Oct. 16. Users will continue to have access to images they've uploaded.
  • Google storage in Picasa and Drive will be consolidated over the next few months, giving users 5GB of free storage across both services. Additional storage will continue to be offered for a fee.
  • Spreadsheet Gadgets, which allowed users to add customized features to Google Docs Spreadsheets, will end next year as a separate offering because many of the most popular features have now been added directly into Google Docs spreadsheets.
  • Google News Badges, which allowed voracious Google News readers to earn "badges" as they read about news topics, will no longer be issued or displayed, starting Oct. 15. The program allowed users to earn higher-level badges for their news reading accomplishments. Users can still tailor their Google News experience by adding custom sections or adjusting the frequency with which news sources appear, according to Google.
  • The Insights for Search service has been merged into a revamped Google Trends offering. Users can now see search trends and compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties in a single place: The Trends for Websites service, which allowed users to compare traffic to and audiences of different Websites, will no longer be supported.
  • Places Directory, an Android app that users could access to find nearby places of interest, has been dropped and is being replaced with the existing and more detailed Google Maps for Mobile app.
  • The +1 Reports service in Webmaster Tools, which had helped publishers measure +1 activity on their Web pages, is being dropped as a stand-alone service on Nov. 14 because better reports can be generated using the Social Reports services in Google Analytics, according to Google.

This was the second round of Google service cuts in 2012. In July, the company dumped the iGoogle personalized home page, the Google Mini enterprise search appliance, Google Talk Chatback and the former Google Video service, which was made moot when the company purchased YouTube.

In September 2011, Google squashed its Aardvark, Desktop, Fast Flip and Image Labeler services. The moves have been part of Google CEO Larry Page's efforts to direct the company's focus to core products, such as search through, mobile through Android, Chrome on the desktop and YouTube for video.

Page started the house-cleaning in June 2011 when he shuttered Google Health and PowerMeter and moved on to gradually close Google Labs products in July 2011.