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    • It's brilliantly explained in this comment on Slashdot (by an Android-team Googler):

      Also, some truly great insight into what the actual costs of maintaining a (dormant) project for Google is. With a side-insight into how Google handles single-code-base development and upgrades in a system as huge as all of Google.

    • What worries me is the offhand statement that a Google product needs to be growing or eventually end up with 100M or more users to guarantee its long-term survival.

    • Yep. But, for Google, that's just reality. Either you're Google-scale, or getting there, or (walking) dead. And I get that, they are operating a business, after all.

      For a sense of scale: Android has about 3 billion users. When working with products like that, something that has 3 million users is a rounding error. G+ now probably has less than 3 million MAU. So if a product like that has a potential to cause (PR) trouble for all of Google, well, the incentive to shut it down is pretty clear.

      I do not like it, but I understand it.

    • I understand that as well - but I'm reminded of the fact that Google became what it is today by caring about the "long tail". If they are now doing the opposite, that might be a sound business decision but it also means that we should expect less experimental stuff from Google going forward.

      On the other hand, when Google experiments and does put something new and shiny out for us to use, the fact that we know it will inevitably be put on the chopping block again leads to the vicious cycle of us being less likely to adopt it in the first place.

    • I think as a counter to the common (and justified) perception that Google kills most of its projects, it would have been allowed to continue almost indefinitely, until it became clear that it wasn't just a minor drain on engineering resources, it was a significant PR risk

      That was my guess! He also said that Google will continue to support products with a small but growing user base. Unfortunately, from a visibility standpoint, if you weren’t on Google+ in the last three or four years you would assume as I did (until recently) that it disappeared a long time ago.

      Every year, there are info graphics that come out showing what happens in an Internet minute, i.e. number of tweets world-wide, number of YouTube downloads, etc. Reddit no longer shows up on them and neither does Google+.

      There are social media marketing influencers still pushing blogs(!) as the primary means to grow your brand, but no one is talking about Reddit or Google+.

      If Google+ was still growing, even a few million new users a year, there could’ve been a chance for a resurgence when people left Facebook in droves this summer or when people left Tumblr this fall.

      But Google+ has almost zero visibility from the general public. So I am assuming it was and would continue to have a shrinking user base if it continued.

      However, I do agree that there were probably a gazillion things Google should’ve done in 2014 and since to continue Google+ as a viable product rather than as a purely short-term defensive manuever against Facebook.

    • Great find. This may be tangential, but I remember conversations I once had with Microsoft about Internet Explorer. It was so bad, everyone knew it, and no one could understand why a company with Microsoft's means couldn't make it better if they set their minds to it.

      I'll never forget one of their top execs telling us in a meeting that there shouldn't be an expectation to put a lot of resources into something free. I argued that it was so bad for PR because it touched so many consumers and developers, it would tarnish Microsoft's brand.

      In the end Google did put a big effort into it and I wonder if Microsoft looks back and regrets letting it languish. Hard to know, because their business is certainly doing great.

      The thing about the Slashdot explanation that still leaves me empty is why has Google's communication to the outside world about it been close to zero? That doesn't seem like it takes a lot of engineering.

    • Robert Baker

      Times and technology are exponentially fast moving targets...as a basic web guy, sometimes it is frustrating when something becomes obsolete as many of my customers never update their company websites and the computer for years. Yes, I still need to inform customers that Internet Explorer has 2.5 feet (like in 2+ foots) in the grave. Fortunately most have heard of Chrome but most never have installed and used Firefox, Opera or Thunderbird.

      I was working on a new website yesterday and want to implement a chat module. Lo and behold the plugin developer is hooking up with Google Firebase. I has never heard of Firebase and basically have no understanding of what it really does but I needed various API keys to make this chat module work.

      So, good chance that Firebase might not be around in the long term future or it might become a standard. But, my autonomous Wordpress configs are driving me there now.

    • Firebase is a "backend as a service" - and the fact that it has paid tiers beyond the free one makes me hopeful that it won't go away over night. ;)

      A Wordpress plugin will likely use one of the database services available on Firebase, but there's also hosting&storage, user authentication, remote configuration, A/B testing, ...

    • That was a fantastic comment. Thanks for sharing!

      I've experienced the opposite of Google's "shared codebase, always run from HEAD" approach.

      About a decade ago I worked for Yahoo. It was common for Yahoo products to share certain infrastructure in the form of service APIs and versioned dependencies, but virtually all Yahoo products had their own separate codebases, managed their dependencies separately, and ran on servers that were dedicated to that specific product. This was in the days before containerization was really a thing (and AWS was just barely starting to become a thing).

      As a result, it was not uncommon for a Yahoo product or service to be essentially abandoned without actually being shut down. Nobody would be working on it, but somewhere in Yahoo's many data centers there were still servers running that product's code, users were still using it, and things were mostly fine.

      Until something went wrong, or a shared API needed to change in a backwards-incompatible way. Then there'd be a huge effort to try to track down anyone at the company who still knew anything about that product in the hopes that they could help fix it or update it or at least shut it down smoothly.

      On one occasion I witnessed, an incident at a datacenter resulted in the need to power-cycle a bunch of servers. It turned out that some of the servers in question were running an ancient and unmaintained product (it took a while to even figure out what was running on those servers in the first place), so there was nobody who could say whether or not that product would actually come back up if those servers were turned off. For all anybody knew, it was possible those servers had never actually been turned off since the product was launched and later abandoned.

      All things considered, I think I'd have preferred Google's approach, even though it still has its downsides.

    • I remember interviewing engineers at Yahoo who said they were looking for new jobs because they were assigned an old product Yahoo bought, then the founders split, leaving them with a codebase no one knew.

    • Firebase isn't going anywhere, count on it. Every back end service for apps Google has (push messaging, crash reporting, realtime database, remote config, analytics, auth, remote config, ...) is being rolled into it. Basically it's like AWS for apps.

      The risk of having to rely on it for critical functionality of your app, well, that's a different story, I'll tell it sometimes.

    • Every year, there are info graphics that come out showing what happens in an Internet minute, i.e. number of tweets world-wide, number of YouTube downloads, etc. Reddit no longer shows up on them and neither does Google+.

      Even at its peak, Google+ rarely showed up on anything. The media essentially ignored it. It was only mentioned in marketing blogs. Tech media was calling it dead two years after launch, and they repeated that mantra for four years, essentially killing it with self fulfilling prophecy.

      Don't get me wrong, I completely recognize the other major blunders which led to its demise; holding strong on the "Google+ as identity layer" was the right approach, and if they'd stuck to that, I think the ecosystem would have benefitted in such a way that it would have driven eventual critical mass.

      Reddit is another interesting case study, in that it is one of the single largest drivers of traffic available, responsible for more single link organic traffic than Facebook, and probably only second to Twitter in that aspect, and yet rarely gets any decent coverage. It often only shows up with the shitshow portions of the site raise some pressworthy hell.

      Long story short, I find those infographics to be less adequate snapshots of what's happenin online.

    • Most of the people I worked with at Yahoo were great! I had great managers too.

      There were pointy-haired bosses elsewhere in the company, and the leadership at the top was a constantly rotating cast of questionable characters at that time, but that's another topic. 😉

      I think the software development and operational processes at Yahoo when I was there really weren't bad for the time. I learned a ton while I was there. These days it sounds archaic, but back then it was actually better than how a lot of companies worked. There are even some internal tools we used there (like the yinst package manager) that I still miss and think were way ahead of their time.