Part of our History of the Internet series
Google Labs, launched in May 2006 and it was a fun “experimental lab” where engineers from Google could experiment with their wildly crazy ideas. During the time of its existence, Google Labs created some pretty big things, like Google Spreadsheets, (which would later become Google Sheets), Google Desktop, Google Maps, and Google Trends. It also created some enhancements for the other, “bigger” apps, like Gmail.
Google Labs Gets The Axe
In 2011, Google announced that it was going to be putting more money into other projects….or, as they said it: “Putting more wood in fewer arrows.”
This didn’t mean that everything created in Google Labs would be going to the graveyard. In fact, we’ve still seen a number of products go on to become their own standalone apps. What aren’t we seeing anymore? Crazy ideas being launched and tested on real users in a system without support.
Google Labs services were always strictly experimental. This meant that Google wasn’t going to offer support for them and could add and/or remove the services at any time with or without warning. You could probably find support from other users in various discussion groups for each service and of course, anyone could directly contact Google and ask questions.
Projects Go to The Grave
One of the projects that we missed the most when Google Labs bit the dust was everyone’s favorite: “Google City Tours.” This project was, like the others, experimental, but was put to good use by travel lovers.
You could put in any destination and it would instantly plan a walking tour that plotted local attractions and kept the destination’s hours of operation in mind with its suggestions for what to visit first and how long it would take to get there. You can see it in action HERE with a video by Google Webmaster, Matt Cutts.
Another project that died when Google Labs closed its doors was Google’s Script Conversion. This project was geared towards people who could understand the spoken language but couldn’t read the script. It worked by converting back and forth from languages like English, Greek, Russian, Serbian, Persian, and Hindi. Yeah, it was cool, but it was kind of a duplicated effort. With it’s demise, Google directed its users to Google Translate and called the project finished.
Google Labs: Still in Action?
The correct answer would be “No” but there are still things you can do with it behind the scenes of some of your favorite Google Apps.
For Instance: You can add an app to Google Drive that will allow you to digitally sign documents or an app that will allow you to edit photos within Google Drive for free. There’s also an app you can add that will allow you to send and receive faxes right from Drive. Cool, right?
Yes, we all look back and miss the original Google Labs, but with all of the innovation happening right under our noses, it’s still pretty easy to look forward to all of the new things Google has in store for us in the coming years.