The Five Biggest Google Fails and Wins

Categories: Tech

Google+ launched with much fanfare recently and, quickly, the reviews poured in. We even wrote about the things we thought Google+ would need to do to beat Facebook, and we have since had a chance to look around inside the social networking platform. It does appear to be easier to use than Facebook, but there is still a long way to go and, with Google, you just never know.

In their fascinating history, Google has put a lot of different apps, sites and concepts onto the Web. Some of them have been astonishingly successful while others have failed miserably. Setting aside the search engine, since it was the basis for starting the company, here is a list of the five biggest Google wins and the five biggest Google fails as we all wait to see where Google+ will eventually reside.

Maps...even on your phone.
Let's start with the wins because, frankly, they are not difficult to identify and, despite many leaps of poor judgment by the company, they have put forth some of the most successful technological initiatives ever.

5. Analytics
If you work in the Web business or have a Web site, you will likely spend some time dealing with arguably the best and most comprehensive visitor tracking tool ever invented. Before Analytics, Webmasters, developers and search engine optimization specialists were relegated to expensive or clunky statistical software. Analytics, like most of Google's offerings, is free and helps people every day figure out who visits their Web sites and why.

4. Docs
Document sharing in the era of Microsoft was a taxing, expensive and annoying job. For many, it still is. But, Google Docs (part of the Google Apps business tools) provides for simple document conversion, sharing and storage. It's not perfect, but it is, by far, the best low-impact, low-cost option for document libraries out there.

3. Chrome
Anyone who uses the Web routinely knows that Internet Explorer, not the first but certainly the most widely used browser, is, in short, crappy. It's slow, not terribly secure, horrible at rendering code (IE makes developers want to stab every engineer at Microsoft repeatedly with a dull knife) and doesn't have even a tenth of the features of Firefox. But, since shortly after Chrome was released, we were sold on this super-fast, clean interface that, not surprisingly, works effortlessly with Google technology.

2. Gmail
E-mail has not changed all that much since it was first invented. Some of the tools have changed and the delivery methods, but it is still a basic back-and-forth message discussion and, for many years, Microsoft owned that conversation. The very acronym used for configuring mail server domains is MX, short for "mail exchange," and the commonly used Microsoft mail server software is called Microsoft Exchange (MX for short). When Gmail emerged, all that began to change. The bare-bones interface, myriad of options and tons of free storage sent millions from @aol, @yahoo and @msn (Microsoft) addresses to Gmail. Now, businesses are dropping the costly Exchange in favor of the relatively cheap and reliable Gmail.

1. Maps
Remember when Key Maps were the only way most of us could find our way around big cities like Houston without getting lost? Perhaps no technology on the Internet has been as remarkable at providing such a basic service so simply. It is the default for getting directions on most smart phones and on the web. Beyond just directions, it provides views of the world we never thought we would have at our fingertips and is a brilliant teaching tool. Maps has, in many ways, changed the way we get from point A to point B.

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