Why is Google so bad at innovation? 44 dead products and counting...

Will Google ever be able to diversify its business from online advertising?
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

The Google Cemetery website lists 44 dead Google products -- the latest being Google+, which was discontinued in October 2018. It's somewhat shocking to see large Google products or services suddenly abandoned despite years of work -- seven years for Google+.

There's many more services that Google closed after investing a lot of engineering work such as: Google Wave, Google Gears, Google Talk, Picasa, iGoogle, Google Reader, and Code Search, etc. However, some of the services have been combined and integrated with other products and aren't completely lost.

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Some of these services might've also had several million users when Google shut them down. It has invested thousands of man-years of software engineers -- a scarce resource -- and thrown much of that work away.

The failure rate is even higher if you count the Google X moonshot projects, which haven been shunted off to a separate division under parent company Alphabet.

Why is Google so bad at successfully innovating new products and services? Will it ever be able to diversify from its core advertising and search business?


Google hates marketing, and it doesn't understand the role of marketing in building a successful business. It doesn't market its products; it announces them. And it doesn't do much more than that to try to get new users.

Google is really bad at marketing because of its engineering culture, which is strongly anti-marketing and is based on a belief of: "Build it and they will come."

Design and build a great product, and the world will beat a path to your door.

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It's what worked for Google, and it is how it grew successful. I remember meetings with the Google founders -- in their very early days -- when I worked at The Financial Times. They were very proud that they became the No.1 search engine without the need for any marketing effort at all.

Look at Google's senior executive team and try and find a chief marketing executive.

Google hates marketing. It hates anything you might do to better market your online business -- outside of running Google ads.

You might call it Search Engine Optimization, but if you go too far -- Google calls it gaming the system -- it is a blatant attempt to manipulate its search technology. It will penalize any business that goes beyond the basic SEO rules laid out in its webmaster notes. In recent years, it has penalized companies that bought backlinks on other sites to try and improve their Google ranking. It resulted in companies desperately trying to remove backlinks -- sometimes with legal threats -- to try and get their Google pagerank back.

A hyperlink that comes from a lower-ranked webpage can drag you down.

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Google's search technology wants the natural signals of popularity for a webpage, and if it detects you've tried to improve your business's pagerank by any other means, it will flag the business for future investigation, and the pagerank will be made to fluctuate randomly for a couple of weeks to confuse any SEO metrics.

Build it and they will come. No marketing should be necessary. It once worked for Google when there was no Google, but these are different times.

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Previous and related coverage:

Google shutting down Project Tango in March 2018

Google will turn its attention to ARCore that doesn't require special hardware.

Google shuts down Google+ after API bug exposed details for over 500,000 users

Search giant says it found no evidence that any user data was misused.

Why it's hard to believe anything Google says

The reluctant admission of a privacy breach revealed that Google's "trust us" philosophy was as believable as "do no evil."

Google to kill off Google Reader in 'spring cleaning'

As of July 1, 2013, Google will retire its RSS subscription service Google Reader, the company announced today.

Google Code project hosting service shutting down

Google Code previously closed in on itself when it nixed downloads due to a "significant increase" in inappropriate incidents and "misuse."

Google shuts down Google Labs

The company is abandoning the prototyping facility that gave birth to Google Docs, Google Maps and iGoogle, as part of chief executive Larry Page's quest to get 'more wood behind fewer arrows.'

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