Why Google Labs Closing Makes Me Nervous

Why Google Labs Closing Makes Me Nervous

While we’ve learned a huge amount by launching very early prototypes in Labs, we believe that greater focus is crucial if we’re to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead.

In many cases, this will mean ending Labs experiments—in others we’ll incorporate Labs products and technologies into different product areas.

The quote above is from this post to the Google Corporate blog announcing that Google will be shutting down the “Labs” portion of their website.  For those of you who didn’t use it, the “Labs” portion was the home for all the half-tested, half-baked projects that someone cooked up in their 20% time but didn’t have a home in Google’s formal portfolio.  Interesting little projects like Google Correlate, which allows you to see if two words search volumes are correlated, are currently sitting in Google Labs and many of us will be watching what happens to them.  However, most people never used these little toys and I can understand wanting to consolidate and focus your user experience.

However, as you know, I’m a fan of network innovation and Google Labs seemed like an excellent way to facilitate that.  It created a sort of democracy of ideas where if user interest spiked in a specific project, Google could then fund further development of it.  The problem with “focus” is that if it is driven from the top, it will inevitably at some point include focusing on a bad idea instead of a good one.  It’s what I keep warning everyone Apple will fall victim to at some point and I hope the closing of Google Labs isn’t a sign that Google is headed in the same direction.