Where Google Went Wrong – December, 2013

Ford had its Edsel. Coke had its new Coke. Google had its … well surprisingly, Google has had many failures.

Google is arguably the most successful Internet company today. But they didn’t get there without takings risks, some of which have failed spectacularly.

Here are a few products that seemed like a good idea in the planning stage but were not embraced by the public.


1. Froogle
With a name that resembled a Muppets character, Froogle confused users more than it helped. Built for price comparison purposes, Froogle inevitably failed as the majority of the population missed the wordplay joke entirely. After five years in existence, Froogle shut down and refashioned its appearance as today’s Google Product Search.

2. Google Wave
Although Google Wave had a loyal band of followers, the product reached its downfall in less than a year and a half after failing to build a steady fan base. Its failure was caused by poor marketing, a surfeit of bugs after its too-early release, and Google’s classic invitation-only setup, which worked against Google by breaking up business collaborations when it should have unified coworkers.

3. Google Answers
In competition with Yahoo! Answers, Google Answers’ first mistake was charging patrons for posts. Mistake number two was its surplus of notifications, even after questions had been answered. Despite Google’s clear advantages over Yahoo!, including a team of researchers guaranteeing correct, quality answers, users favored Yahoo!’s free but sometimes sketchier interface, eventually leading to the demise of the service.

4. Google Video
Unlike Wave and Answers, Google Video is still in existence, albeit miles away from what it set out to accomplish. Originally attempting to tackle YouTube, Google Video failed to match the video tycoon in popularity and has since settled for buying out the site and advertising on its sidelines.

5. Google Web Accelerator
A combination of something you don’t really need and something that may compromise your privacy. The software is still offered by Google and promises to speed up page load times of Web pages by as much as a less-than-stunning 20 percent. Reviewers said that the target audience for Google Web Accelerator, broadband users, already can retrieve Web sites fast enough. And from the start, privacy activists accused Google of using Web Accelerator as a market research tool.

“We celebrate our failures”
Some Google flops lasted no more than a day and then vanished without a trace. Other efforts have been left to languish like a neglected orphan inside Google’s labyrinth of Web services.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt once famously said, “We celebrate our failures.” All employees at Google are expected to spend 20% of their time working on personal projects of interest. Google says that the policy encourages creativity. And without Google’s willingness to take risks and not be afraid of tripping, stumbling, and sometimes falling flat on its face, the company might not be what it is today. Perhaps Google’s greatness can be measured by its failures as well as its successes.

Chris Hippler is President and CEO of Capital Letters, a business-to-business marketing company. He and his team get results for clients through print and online communications. Chris can be reached at chris@capitallettersmarketing.com or (734) 353-9918.

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