Google keeps on slimming down its product line to focus on what CEO Larry Page calls its “big bets.” Today it offered updates on five products that will be going dark this year. It’s announced that it’s shuttering even more offerings, and one of them is Picnik, the excellent online photo editor which it bought in 2010 and the team will work on Google’s other photo products. Google is also shutting down its Social Graph API as its Google+ API slowly trickles out. Okay, it looks like Google really is serious about its oft-stated plans to focus on fewer services and do them better.
The closure isn’t abrupt or catastrophic. Google is giving Picnik users plenty of warning–the service isn’t going away until April 19th–and they’ll be able to download their photos. But unlike some of Google’s shutdowns, closing Picnik isn’t a tacit acknowledgment that a service never found an audience. (I never heard of Google’s Gmail Message Continuity and Social Graph API until the company said they were going away.) Picnik is popular, and it’s good, and the world will be a sadder place place without it–at least for folks who already know and love it.
Why is it going away? That’s not entirely clear. Google’s blog post says it’s so “the Picnik team can continue creating photo-editing magic across Google products. ” But when you go to Picnik, you get a message that “Picnik is moving its easy yet powerful photo editing tools to Google+,” which is a slightly different message. In either case, though, it sounds like Google thinks that photo editing is less of a destination, which is what Picnik was, and more of a feature.
It’s also worth noting that Picnik was Flash-based. This is just guesswork on my part, but it likely hastened the service’s demise. It certainly made it harder to integrate its features with other Google services, and probably even reduced Google’s enthusiasm for pointing to Picnik from elsewhere on Google
If Picnik had lived, it would surely have required a rewrite to become a pure HTML5 service, which would have been a major undertaking. I imagine that Google is busily working on improving its HTML5 graphics tools, and decided it wasn’t worth it to try and roll them into an all-new version of Picnik.
In fact, it’s pretty clear that Google circa 2012 is generally less interested in managing a bunch of destinations, and more interested in beefing up Google+. It wants to give you every possible incentive to join and use its social network.
Google will also open-source its Sky Map this year in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon university. The Google Message Continuity service, which backs up email for enterprise customers, will be retired in favor of Google Apps. The Needlebase data management platform will be integrated into other services. Finally, Urchin, whose product ultimately became Google Analytics, still had a standalone client-hosted version, which will be closed in March.