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Updated: Google to kill Labs, but not all of them!

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Updated: Google (s goog) just announced it is ending its Labs program, in an effort to focus more on its existing products, and a collective gasp has gone up around the Internet. My first thought was, “Oh my God, what will happen to my multiple inboxes and Auto-advance features that make my inbox manageable?” I bet I am not alone. For many of Google’s hard-core or even medium-core users, certain labs features have become essential tools to personalize the apps to their needs.

Update: My worries have been somewhat assuaged because a Google spokesman said that Gmail Labs, Calendar Labs and other Labs will not be shut down, merely the Labs program that brought us such applications as Google Goggles and Google Reader. There are still cool affected apps, but it’s not the end of my personal world.

Sure there are silly Labs features such as the one designed to stop you from drunk dialing, Image Swirl, which I’ve never figured out. But there are some real productivity enhancing items out there such as the ones I mentioned above or Correlate, which helps connect search trends to real-world data and events. Google didn’t give a lot of detail in its blog post, and I’ve reached out to the company for comment and will update the post when I learn more. From the blog post:

Last week we explained that we’re prioritizing our product efforts. As part of that process, we’ve decided to wind down Google Labs. While we’ve learned a huge amount by launching very early prototypes in Labs, we believe that greater focus is crucial if we’re to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead.

In many cases, this will mean ending Labs experiments—in others we’ll incorporate Labs products and technologies into different product areas. And many of the Labs products that are Android apps today will continue to be available on Android Market. We’ll update you on our progress via the Google Labs website.

The move follows Google closing other experimental efforts such as its PowerMeter product earlier this month, and signals that the company is really trying to focus.

I’m frustrated that Google isn’t giving us a lot of information about what features we’ll lose and when. If I knew what was going away, and when, I could start researching for alternatives. Or maybe a kindly startup could volunteer to take the feature out of Google’s hands and support it. What do y’all think? What Labs features will you miss?

17 Responses to “Updated: Google to kill Labs, but not all of them!”

  1. Paul Nowak

    The app I will miss most from Google Labs is Fast Flip. I was using it daily and would recommend it to a lot of people. My organization teaches speed reading classes and we used to recommend Fast Flip as a way to quickly read online content. Now that it’s gone, we’re planning to create a similar (but better) version. I’ll post updates on this project here:

  2. Daniel

    And today marks the beginning of the downfall of Google.

    The day that a company says “yeah, so we’re going to shut down the undirected innovation and research program that’s serendipitously developed some of our most successful products and features in order to focus on our ‘core products'” is the day the innovation culture starts to die in that company, and anyone with truly innovative ideas leaves for startups.

    I love google, and this kind of thing has always been why. Is this not part of their whole 20% program? It’s really sad to see them lose this facility for sharing and getting public buy-in for their innovations.

    In 10 years they’ll do the Microsoft thing, realize they’re being out-innovated and create a “Google Research” division, and then never commercialize anything because no nascent idea is a $10b/year business from day one, and it’s not justifiable to their shareholders if it’s not, but then spend the next 10 years playing catchup to the tiny firm that ran with it and is now eating their lunch. See netscape vs i.e., google docs/apps vs office and exchange, etc.

  3. sbonagof

    There is a lesson here – research first, get the facts straight, then report. Anything else is sloppy journalism. And there’s too much of that on this site and others lately.

  4. Brooke

    This terrifies me. I have more than half of the labs enabled, and I love them. The ones I will miss most (what am I going to do?!) are: Multiple Inboxes, Undo Send, Suggest People to Include, Calendar Preview in Sidebar.

  5. This really isn’t a big deal. Nearly all labs features are for Gmail, and Gmail is set to receive a major overhaul in the very near future, which is why they’r e discontinuing labs. The good stuff will be implemented as official features, and the not-so-great stuff will be phased out to free up resources for innovation in other areas.

  6. Heck, how am I going to manage if I can’t have multiple Gmail accounts open at once?

    Where will the bloodletting stop?!?
    Will they nix my GCalendar next? I couldn’t function without my GoogleReader …

  7. I think this is a good longer-term move for Google, although they’ll take a bit of a PR hit in the near-term.

    Over time it will reduce public expectations for non-stop innovation, focusing attention on their core products. Let’s not confuse external messaging with internal strategy, though; this move shouldn’t be taken as a sign that they’re going to discourage bottom-up experimentation.

  8. Dilip Andrade

    If we lose Labs in Gmail, I’m really going to miss having it suggest people who should be on the email, and having it tell me that I might have selected the wrong person.

    This is a real pity. It would be great if they just left those features there and let us keep using them sans support.

  9. This is probably the worst firs-world problem I’ve faced all summer. Certainly since I had a hard time finding a good seat at the final Harry Potter movie (I did eventually find a good seat, though – it was just difficult).