Five Failures: Google Products That Missed The Mark

Google Failure

Google might as well be printing money for the U.S. Federal Reserve these days -- just look at the company's recent earnings and revenue growth. But the search engine giant isn't perfect, despite its success with recent products like Android. In fact, Google has had some high profile misfires. Here's a look at some of Google's biggest failures.

Google Catalog Search Gets Toe-Tagged

The idea behind Google Catalog Search had merit: a search tool designed specifically for scanning the text of thousands of product catalogs. Like Google Book Search, a team of folks scanned print catalog after print catalog in an effort to digitize the content. Google Catalog Search debuted in 2001 but remained in beta until it was shut down last year. And with good reason: print catalogs, unlike books, have become less relevant over the last decade with the rise of e-commerce. So why put the catalogs online as standalone entities in the first place?

Google Buzz Cuts Into Privacy

It's still alive and kicking, so it's hard to call Google Buzz a complete failure. However, it's hard to find a product of any kind this year that has received as much criticism, scorn and litigation as Google Buzz. This was supposed to be Google's highly anticipated foray into the lucrative field of social networking, but Buzz aggravated Gmail users who discovered, without warning, that they had to opt out of the social network service and that Google Buzz publicly disclosed some of their personal information.

As a result, complaints over privacy violations flooded Google and derailed the debut of Buzz. Google just recently announced it would settle one of the lawsuits and dedicate $8.5 million to an independent fund that will support Internet privacy education and policy. And after Google fixed the privacy faux pas in Buzz, the service was revealed to be a mishmash of "been there, done that" features that was very un-Google.

Google Video Player Gets Played

Back before Google plopped down more than $1.6 billion for YouTube in 2006, the company flirted with online video in a different way: launching its own stand-alone video player. The Google Video Play was a basic desktop application that was easy to use and performed its intended task of playing Web videos. However, the application didn't really do anything special beyond the already entrenched video players like Windows Media Player and Quicktime and only served to add yet another media format that users had to navigate. Google dropped the application in 2007 along with the Google Video File (.gvi) format.

Google Web Accelerator Hits A Speed Bump

Software-based Web accelerators can be tricky, so we won't slam Google too much for this one. In theory, the product could have worked. The Google Web Accelerator used client software and data caching servers to decrease Web page load times. The beta was released in 2005, and Google sold it as a surefire way to speed up your Web browsing experience. But the Google product was uncharacteristically full of bugs (it blocked users from viewing YouTube videos, for example, and delivered pages users didn't request). Plus, after Google stated clearly the software did not cache users' personal information, it was soon discovered that -- whoops -- the Google Web Accelerator actually did inadvertently collect some personal data.

Google Wave Goes Low Tide

Of all the recent products Google has introduced, Wave appeared to be the one with the most promise and sex appeal. A Web-based, real-time collaboration platform, Google Wave essentially enabled users to communicate and create documents in a virtual shared workspace. In other words, the platform combined the functionality of Google Apps (documents), Gmail (email and messaging) and Buzz (social networking, wikis) into one, all-encompassing product.

After announcing the product in the spring of 2009, and after a short beta, Google Wave was launched to the public last May. Did Google rush Wave? Did the company fail to promote it properly? Or did Wave do so much that it just overwhelmed people? Whatever the case, Google made the shocking announcement in August to cancel Wave development, and Lars Rasmussen, founder of Wave and Google Maps, left to join Facebook. Ouch.