Updated: Google 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?