Google just announced that it is shutting down Google Labs, the company’s central hub for testing new product ideas and features. According to Google, the decision was made in order to allow it to prioritize its product efforts. Google notes that it has learned a lot by launching early prototypes in Labs, but apparently not enough to keep this effort going. Google Labs currently still features experiments for Google Search, Maps, Android and other services, but the company plans to phase it out shortly.
This means that some Labs experiments will soon end, while others will be rolled into other products and technologies. Google notes, though, that many of those experiments that are currently available as Android apps will continue to be available in the Android Market.
What Will Happen to All the Cool Stuff in Google Labs?
Google Labs was always a fun part of Google and included experiments like Google Scribe, the web-based 3D demo Google Body and other tools for users and developers that weren’t quite ready to be stand-alone products or features yet. Some of the experiments, of course, weren’t that useful (remember Intersection Explorer?). Others, however, like Art Project, were very interesting. Hopefully we will see some of the more useful ones again in some other form.
Focus and Prioritization Instead of Public Experiments
Just last week, Google’s co-founder and current CEO Larry Page noted (on Google+, of course) that the company wants to simplify and streamline its product lines and that “focus and prioritization” will be what will drive Google forward in the coming years. Clearly, focusing on public experiments is not part of this strategy.
If they don't open-source or otherwise release some of these tools, I'll personally be a bit disappointed; there's a lot of great stuff in there, that a lot of talented engineers have put time and energy into.