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Google to close offices, ditch services

Google to close offices, ditch services

Google is hoping that by closing some of its engineering offices and trimming some of its non-core service offerings it can ride out the credit crunch.

The spending slowdown is starting to affect even the traditional industry stalwarts, with giant Google announcing cutbacks and service changes in order to curb spending.

In a series of announcements from each individual Google department – collated and listed by BetaNews yesterday – the company announced a series of job losses and office closures worldwide, alongside changes to services the company current offers.

The office closures are taking place in the US, Sweden, and Norway with one office being closed in each country. The offices are believed to be centres for engineering, and while staff are encouraged to find jobs elsewhere in the company the senior vice president for engineering, Alan Eustice, has said that “we may not be able to keep 100 percent of these exceptional employees.

With the company looking to curb spending, it's not a good time to be recruiting: accordingly, 100 positions in the company's recruitment departments are to be eliminated. The story is much the same as with the engineering staff, with the company hoping that the majority of staff will be able to find other positions in different departments.

Certain Google projects are also being eliminated or modified to reduce expenditure, with the announcements that Google Video will no longer be accepting new submissions – which makes sense when you consider that Google also owns the far more popular YouTube video sharing site – and that the team behind Google's Book Search will be discontinuing their efforts to digitise printed catalogues.

In addition to these moves, the company has announced that it is to wash its hands of the Jaiku microblogging engine it developed once it has been released as an open source project under the Apache license, relying instead on the open source community to develop it further. The mobile social networking service Dodgeball is also for the chop, and sadly won't be entering the public domain in the same way. Mashup Editor is being ditched in favour of the App Engine, which will remain, and the popular web clipping system Google Notebook will be discontinued.

While nobody would accuse Google of being in financial trouble, it's clear that the company is eliminating non-essentials in order to ensure its survival through the current financial slowdown. Whether this is an opportunity for the company's many competitors to get an edge and wrest the search engine crown away from Google remains to be seen – but in today's climate, it'd have to be a company with seriously deep pockets.

Are there any projects in the ash-can list that you'll miss, or is Google performing a much-needed early spring clean? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

16 Comments

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steveo_mcg 16th January 2009, 09:26 Quote
I really like google notepad, i suppose i better go a fetch my notes from it. Any one recommend an alternative?
Fod 16th January 2009, 10:15 Quote
... google docs? i also use omnioutliner, but that's a mac app.
Shuriken 16th January 2009, 10:22 Quote
To be honest I'm not really surprised, google's business model has always baffled me:

1. Find great product,
2. Buy out product and improve it
3. Give said product away for free
4. ???
5. Profit

Two great examples of this are sketchup and google analytics. It always seemed inevitable that they would struggle eventually. It's a shame though, google are one of the few non-evil big companies around.
Fod 16th January 2009, 10:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shuriken
It's a shame though, google are one of the few non-evil big companies around.

They make money from advertising. If you use their services, they pretty much have a complete picture of your internet habits and general lifestyle. Their new browser takes this to another level by monitoring your _entire_ browsing habits, not just google-based activity. They know more about you than you'd be comfortable admitting to others. They use this information to make sure you see adverts that you're going to be clicking on, which companies are very, very willing to pay a premium for. They work with draconian governments to censor the web and profile users.

Still want to call them not evil?
mclean007 16th January 2009, 10:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shuriken
To be honest I'm not really surprised, google's business model has always baffled me:

1. Find great product,
2. Buy out product and improve it
3. Give said product away for free
4. ???
5. Profit

Two great examples of this are sketchup and google analytics. It always seemed inevitable that they would struggle eventually. It's a shame though, google are one of the few non-evil big companies around.
The business model is actually very effective. Google is cash rich following its stock market flotation and some very successful years selling advertising space (its principal revenue stream), and so has been buying assets such as Sketchup. These assets are then improved and tweaked to complement the look and feel of Google's existing offerings, and are offered at no cost to the end-user in order to increase the presence of the Google brand.

By becoming a one-stop shop for great "free" tools, Google improves its market standing and engenders brand loyalty in users. Those same users are then more likely to use Google's search engine over e.g. MS Live Search or Yahoo!; GMail over Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail; etc. And those are the services on which Google makes its money by serving ads. Similarly, Google Docs integrates beautifully with other Google products, so by offering Google Docs for free, Google increases the value to users of e.g. GMail.

In short, the more quality products Google offers, the more value they add and the more people get used to the look and feel of the whole Google ecosystem, and the more they are therefore likely to choose Google over its rivals.
mclean007 16th January 2009, 11:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fod
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shuriken
It's a shame though, google are one of the few non-evil big companies around.

They make money from advertising. If you use their services, they pretty much have a complete picture of your internet habits and general lifestyle. Their new browser takes this to another level by monitoring your _entire_ browsing habits, not just google-based activity. They know more about you than you'd be comfortable admitting to others. They use this information to make sure you see adverts that you're going to be clicking on, which companies are very, very willing to pay a premium for. They work with draconian governments to censor the web and profile users.

Still want to call them not evil?
(1) The Chrome browser only reports back what you allow it to.

(2) Data collected by Google is anonymised.

(3) Google uses data, as you say, to increase the relevance of the ads it serves. Admittedly this allows them to sell ad space at a premium to if they knew nothing about you and had to serve ads based purely on the current search. But that is just good business sense, and I for one would rather see relevant ads than irrelevant ones. Google's ads are quite inoffensive, text-only, don't pop up, under or over your browser, and are generally unobtrusive - if only every ad server were so scrupulous!

(4) If you're that bothered, just block Google cookies.

(5) I presume by "draconian governments" you are referring in the main to China. Google's argument on working with the Chinese officials to offer a censored subset of the web is that it is better to have access to some information than none at all. While it may be morally repugnant to us in the west to know that China censors web access for its citizens, the simple facts are that Google (even in censored form) is unarguably a valuable tool for Chinese internet users, and that Google would not be allowed to operate in China at all without agreeing to cooperate in the censorship. So it may be an imperfect solution, but Google is not to blame.

Don't get me wrong - I'm smart enough to recognise that Google is a business that looks out for itself and its shareholders before anyone else. However, I also recognise that the reason Google has got to where it is is by being bloody good at what it does, be that serving up search results, webmail, maps or whatever. They throw an enormous amount of money at teams of software engineers, interface designers, networking experts, psychologists and many others who spend an awful lot of time producing polished, high quality products, which are reliable, responsive and intuitive to use. That is why Google's products are popular, and that is why Google is such a well-regarded and successful company.
Fod 16th January 2009, 11:09 Quote
oh yeah, google's products are great. but don't think that 'anonymising' means anything. it's still traceable back to you - i mean, you're seeing personalised ads, aren't you? also, tracing is no longer purely cookie based - sites can collect a remarkable amount of data purely on the serverside (case in point, my IP hasn't changed in over a year). speaking to a friend who works for a company doing online advertising recently acquired by MS, even i was surprised at how much data they can collect from even an 'anonymous' user.

i'm not telling you to lock yourself in a darkened room in a faraday cage wearing a tinfoil hat. half these privacy issues are just people scaremongering; the data isn't exactly blackmail material (after all the connection to you has and never will hold up in a court of law), i just want to level the playing field with regard to all the google love that seems to be happening right now. they're not the darling flowerchildren of the industry; they're a large corporation out to make a lot of money; just like MS.
naokaji 16th January 2009, 11:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
(1) The Chrome browser only reports back what you allow it to.
(2) Data collected by Google is anonymised.

And you trust them to not lie about that? I mean, they can get money for that data and they have it, they are a company and as such only exist for the purpose of making money, so common sense dictates that they are collecting all data and that they do indeed sell it.
Phil Rhodes 16th January 2009, 15:03 Quote
The UK censors web access for its citizens, if only by an NGO (the IWF)

Let's get over ourselves, shall we?
Fod 16th January 2009, 16:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
The UK censors web access for its citizens, if only by an NGO (the IWF)

Let's get over ourselves, shall we?
aside from the wikipedia incident, can you show me any other documented censorship?
n3mo 16th January 2009, 16:27 Quote
@Fod
This "Wikipedia incident" as you call it includes censoring whole (or almost whole) UK Internet activity (with transparent proxies)...
Gareth Halfacree 16th January 2009, 16:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fod
aside from the wikipedia incident, can you show me any other documented censorship?
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/14/iwf_details_archive_blacklisting/
mclean007 16th January 2009, 16:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by naokaji
And you trust them to not lie about that? I mean, they can get money for that data and they have it, they are a company and as such only exist for the purpose of making money, so common sense dictates that they are collecting all data and that they do indeed sell it.
Yes, I do, and for three reasons. First, there is far too much at stake for them to run around breaching all kinds of privacy laws to sell data. It would be entirely counterproductive for them to take that risk. Secondly, independent analysis of what Chrome reports back to Google has been undertaken and shows that Chrome respects user privacy preferences. Thirdly, Chrome is open source and is therefore wide open to peer review. Given the high profile nature of Chrome, it is very likely that many independent coders have reviewed the source, and yet no spyware scandals have been reported.
Cupboard 16th January 2009, 17:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
The UK censors web access for its citizens, if only by an NGO (the IWF)

Let's get over ourselves, shall we?

Tesco doesn't B)
One of the few good things about it.
edit: now that they (IWF) have actually stopped blocking the relevant wikipedia image, maybe I'm not so sure.
Shuriken 16th January 2009, 20:05 Quote
Firstly, I feel I should point out that my 'analysis' of google's business model was more of a tongue-in-cheek reference to south park.
Quote:
They make money from advertising. If you use their services, they pretty much have a complete picture of your internet habits and general lifestyle. Their new browser takes this to another level by monitoring your _entire_ browsing habits, not just google-based activity. They know more about you than you'd be comfortable admitting to others. They use this information to make sure you see adverts that you're going to be clicking on, which companies are very, very willing to pay a premium for. They work with draconian governments to censor the web and profile users.

Still want to call them not evil?

I've never seen google ads relevant to me, just ads relevant to the page they are on, AND I use google chrome exclusively.

So in the words of a great website: Citation Needed :p
DXR_13KE 17th January 2009, 12:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shuriken
So in the words of a great website: Citation Needed :p

EPIC WIN!!!

i also agree with the above quote.

Google has been one of the most neutral and user friendly companies on the internet, EVER, if we have to thank MS for our Personal Computers, we have to thank google for what the internet is today.

Google search engine is the most used search engine in the world, when email accounts were limited to about 25 megs they came along and offered 1Gb storage and then everyone imitated them, google sketchup? google docs? google translator? google code? etc.... they are an amazing company, i wish them lots of years of health and profit and for their empire to die long after i am dead.

To Google has become a synonym of "search" in most current languages, can you think of any other internet company that has gone to that level?

i am not a google fanboy, i can simply know that something is the work of a genius when i see it.

on a side note: Imagine if google never existed...
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