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November 23, 2011

Google waves goodbye to more services

Knol, Gears and Wave all dumped by search giant

By Steve Evans

Google has continued its recent cull by shutting more services, including failed social network Wave and Knol, its Wikipedia-style knowledge platform.

In a post on its official blog page, Google Senior Vice President, Operations & Google Fellow Urs Hölzle said the company is continuing its recent habit of culling its less popular services to enable it to concentrate on newer initiatives such as Google+, its latest go at the social network space.

Google Wave was launched to great fanfare back in June 2009 and was billed as a collaboration platform that would let users mix together email, IM, online docs and other social media platforms in one browser window.

It was, the company said at the time, "equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more."

However just over a year later Google announced it would stop developing Wave as a standalone project due to lack of user interest. The company saw at the time it would fold the technology into other projects. The platform failed to take users away from social network leaders Facebook and Twitter.

Now however the company has announced that as of January 31, 2012 Wave will become read-only and no one will be able to create new waves. The service will be turned off completely on April 30, Hölzle said.

"You’ll be able to continue exporting individual waves using the existing PDF export feature until the Google Wave service is turned off. If you’d like to continue using this technology, there are a number of open-source projects, including Apache Wave and Walkaround," Hölzle wrote.

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Knol was launched in 2007 as a Wikipedia rival, described by Google as a way "to help improve web content by enabling experts to collaborate on in-depth articles." From May 1, 2012 articles on Knol will be downloadable but not viewable and from October 1, 2012 the service will no longer be available.

Google Gears is also going. The plug-in, design to help users view web applications offline, stopped supporting new browsers in March this year and Gears-based Gmail and Calendar offline will now stop working across all browsers in December. The company will instead look to incorporate offline capabilities into HTML5.

Also on the chopping block is Bookmarks Lists, a tool for sharing bookmarks; Friend Connect, a plug-in that lets webmasters add social features to their sites; and Search Timeline, a graph of historical results for a search query.

Also going is Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C), Google’s project to drive down the cost of renewable energy. "At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level. So we’ve published our results to help others in the field continue to advance the state of power tower technology, and we’ve closed our efforts," said Hölzle.

"We will continue our work to generate cleaner, more efficient energy — including our on-campus efforts, procuring renewable energy for our data centres, making our data centres even more efficient and investing more than $850m in renewable energy technologies," he added.

These raft of changes and shutdowns are a result of Google’s desire to be more streamlined, a strategy implemented by CEO Larry Page when he took over from Eric Schmidt earlier this year.

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