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Google’s Lost Features & Products

Google created tons of products in the past. And some of them, they removed again after finding that they didn’t work, required too many resources, didn’t take off, or were overshadowed by legal concerns. Here are some of the “lost” Google services and features.

Whois Searches:Years ago, Google tried allowing you to enter a search like “whois example.com” to find out who registered example.com. Perhaps this feature was open to abuse by automated screenscraping, or perhaps Google just didn’t want to get into the privacy issues connected with this. In any case, it’s no longer available, though it would be really useful. Jon Gales back in January 2004 on the speed removal commented, “This has to be the shortest lived feature of Google’s short history. First saw it on the 7th and last saw it on the 9th,” Well, the record would be beaten by Google X, further below.

Replacements: You can bookmark this whois.net URL in Firefox; afterwards, open the bookmark’s properties via right-clicking it, and in the keyword field, enter “whois”. Now when you type e.g. “whois example.com” into the address bar, you will get to an instant result.
(Also, in theory Subscribed Links are made for custom oneboxes, though a directory search for “whois” doesn’t return anything useful. A search in the iGoogle gadget directory is a little more helpful.)

Google X of 2005 was a variant of the Google homepage showing an animated navigation, much like Mac is doing. It was even disclaimed to be a Mac OS X homage… and perhaps that’s what got it into troubled trademark waters. Chikai Ohazama’s official announcement of the invention in the Google blog sounded innocent enough …

I gave it to a few friends in the company, who gave it to their friends, some posted it on their blogs, others sent it around on mailing lists, and it eventually made its way to Marissa Mayer, who liked it enough to say, when do you want to put it up on Labs? So after some spit and polish from some enthusiastic Googlers and the keen eye of the UI team, Google X is here. I hope all of you enjoy it – especially Mac users, who I’m sure will appreciate its lineage.

… but on that very same day, Google X vanished again.

Replacements: Perhaps it’s not a real replacement, but the Google Korea homepage (in the Korean-language version) comes rather close to the original X effect. Added to that, cached copies of the X page are still walking the internet every now and then (and getting cease & desisted by Google every now and then, too).

Google Answers was a paid question & answer service with around 500 researchers worldwide (I also answered there in 2002). Researchers often went to a great length to tackle even low-paid questions, though Google slowly cut off the traffic to the site, perhaps figuring it’s not scalable or something. After a while, they shut down the service completely, and turned the site into an archive.

Replacements: Uclue.com is a great replacement, with many ex-Google researchers on-board. If you want a free service instead, there’s Yahoo Answers (less suited if you’re pressed for time and looking for high-quality answers only, but very social).

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Google, Google Apps, Products, Features

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