Google may be a seemingly unstoppable force but that doesn't mean that everything the search engine giant has developed has turned to gold. Some of Google's many 'side projects', helpful features and expansions have faltered or have failed to attract the level of user interest anticipated by the firm's developers.
In common with many organisations, Google is apparently trying to cut back on the number of projects with which it is involved in order to direct resources at ensuring the best possible quality within its mainstream services. As a result, it is of little surprise that recent days have seen the removal or at least adjustment of existing Google services, particularly those offered in the U.S.
You may or may not have heard of Google Related. This feature was intended to provide additional information on whatever it was you were looking at online. Examples included directions, reviews of products and businesses and similar results in which you may have been interested.
This service was cleverly conceived and the contextual information could be extremely useful if, for example, you were trying to find a Thai restaurant within a set geographical location. However, the Google Related toolbar just didn't set the world on fire and has now been put out to pasture as part of the firm's Spring announcement.
Google Related may be mourned in some quarters but its demise is likely to appease those who run websites providing information on businesses and local services. Many had worried that Google Related would lead users to both rival websites and to Google's own pages.
Another significant victim of Google's recent announcement is the Patent Search. This useful tool allowed internet users to access a result’s listing comprised only of existing patents. So if you were wondering whether a certain product already existed and was patented, you could utilise the Patent Search to find results for the idea. This was a significant help for anyone researching patents. During its tenure it served to augment the information from other patent indexing sites, including those belonging to national Patent Offices.
Instead of offering Patent Search as a separate function, Google is continuing the quality over quantity theme by merging Patent Search's functionality with the main Google.com website. Users interested in researching Patents can simply type their query into Google as they would for other search terms.
However, Patent Search's disappearance may upset rather more users than the demise of Google Related. It had the potential for global distribution and there are concerns that it may be more difficult for former Patent Search users to effectively research by utilising a standard Google query. The primary concern is that the results won't be filtered by that which relates to patents and that which doesn't.
Any rationalisation process, however essential, must have its winners and losers. Every service shuttered by Google serves to reinforce the areas that Google is prioritising. Namely, the core advertising business, products with high user take-up - YouTube, Chrome- and the ventures that drive innovation in social, commerce, enterprise and local applications.