Archive for June, 2009

Did you think global downturn has only witnessed many a causalities in terms of jobs? Think again !! Along with raining pinkslips, the economic turmoil also saw technology bigwigs pulling plug on many of their services. Launched with lot of fanfare and noise, these services were given a silent burial.

With cost cutting being the slowdown survival mantra, scissors running across the companies ran in many cases also ran on products and services. Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Yahoo, and many other technology giants killed services which once mirrored their growing ambitions and empire.

Here are some of the technology services and products that became a victim of the ongoing recession.

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Microsoft Encarta

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The technology demises includes Microsoft’s once-mighty multimedia encyclopedia Encarta. The company recently announced that it is getting out of the encyclopedia business, ending its long-standing Encarta product.

In a posting on its Web site, Microsoft said that the move reflected the change in the way people use reference material. Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years, however the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past. As part of Microsoft’s goal to deliver the most effective and engaging resources for today’s consumer, it has made the decision to exit the Encarta business.”

Encarta was launched in 1993 as competition for traditional reference books such as those offered by Encyclopedia Britannica. Encarta was originally available for purchase as a multimedia computer resource in DVD-ROM or CD-ROM formats and eventually became available online on a subscription basis.

Encarta’s popularity started fading after the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation launched Wikipedia online in 2001. While Wikipedia lets users continually update or refine entries, improvements suggested to Encarta must pass muster with editors before eventually being incorporated into the database.

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Yahoo GeoCities

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The troubled Internet giant Yahoo recently announced that it will close its GeoCities service that provides people a free online locale for home pages.

GeoCities was a web hosting service founded in 1994 as Beverly Hills Internet and bought by Yahoo for more than $3 billion during the height of the infamous dotcom boom in Silicon Valley.

GeoCities provided people with tools to build interactive websites and eventually added chat forums and other community-oriented features. A notice at GeoCities said that it is no longer accepting new accounts. Yahoo added fee premium services in an effort to make money at GeoCities, which had trouble retaining users and getting profitable.

GeoCities joins a list of recently discontinued Yahoo services including Farechase, My Web, Audio Search, Pets, Live, Kickstart, Briefcase and Yahoo for Teachers, according to the Sunnyvale, California-based firm.

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Nokia Mosh

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To spearhead its push into Internet services, Nokia put users in charge when it opened its networking site Mosh in 2007. Less than two years later, the world’s top cellphone maker, decided to put an end to it, killing a site that made it easy for people to post and share content with others and attracted a wide audience around the globe.

According to the mail sent by Nokia to MOSH users, the users will be redirected to the Ovi Store if caught trying to access Mosh. Thanks to its unmoderated content, Mosh is said to have become a pain for of sorts for Nokia. The site led to legal hassles for Nokia over copyright violations and pornographic content. The Ovi Store, on the other hand, will be a fully moderated, Nokia controlled environment, like the Apple App Store and the likes.

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Google Lively

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In July 2008 Google launched Google Lively, a 3D virtual reality service, with much fanfare. Four months, and Internet giant’s take on Second Life ran out of fuel. Google announced that it is discontinuing Lively by the end of the year.

The shut down reflected Lively’s inability to stand out from the rest of the virtual reality crowd. Lively was Web-based and allowed anyone to set up virtual spaces, such as rooms, that could be embedded onto blogs or Facebook pages.

Google management concluded that it needed to sharpen its focus on its primary business of Internet search and advertising as the company’s revenue growth showed signs of a deteriorating economy.

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Google Video Uploading

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The web search giant bid farewell to its Google Video service in January, a free video sharing website and also a video search engine that allows users to upload video clips.

Though Google is not removing any content hosted on Google Video but users will no longer be able to upload new content to the service. The videos that are already in users account will remain hosted on Google Video. Users will have access to all the existing management tools for them.

The web giant in its blog post wrote, “In a few months, we will discontinue support for uploads to Google Video. We’ve always maintained that Google Video’s strength is in the search technology that makes it possible for people to search videos from across the web, regardless of where they may be hosted. And this move will enable us to focus on developing these technologies further to the benefit of searchers worldwide.”

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Yahoo 360

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Another Yahoo service that is shutting down is Yahoo 360. The service will finally be killed on July 13, according to a blog post written on the site.

The blog says, “Over the past two years there has been a lot of discussion about the closure of Yahoo 360 and the transition to our new profiles experience that we’ve had in the works. Today, we’re able to firmly say that on July 13, 2009 Yahoo! 360 will be closing down and you’ll be asked to move into your new profile on Yahoo, by July 12, 2009.”

Yahoo 360 was launched in March 2005 as a social network/blogging service. However, the service could never really gain popularity. In fact, several analysts cite Yahoo 360’s failure as an example of a hot Internet property that Yahoo failed to cash on.

In September last year, Yahoo also shut its other social-networking site, Yahoo Mash. Late last year company launched its “universal” profile service, Yahoo Profiles, which incorporates basic social-networking functions. However, Yahoo Profiles doesn’t match the features of Yahoo 360.

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Motorola Motomusic store

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The US-based handset maker Motorola too figures in the list of companies that are closing services. Motorola recently announced that it is shutting its music application store — Motomusic — in India.

The company said, “We are streamlining our portfolio and will be introducing Android-based smartphones that will allow us to give consumers and customers access to a broad ecosystem of experiences. This means Motomusic and Soundbuzz are no longer core to our market strategy,” However, the Motomusic service in China would not be impacted, it added.

Last year, the handset maker had launched its portal Motomusic store in India offering more than 3,50,000 tracks and other multimedia contents like wallpapers and videos for download. Motomusic India has put up a notice asking users to download all the songs purchased, back them up and redeem any vouchers and prepaid coupons before July 15.

“The last day of operation for the store is July 15, 2009. From midnight of July 15, the store will not be available for purchases or redemptions and your account and previous purchases will not be accessible,” it added. However, its rivals are gearing up to launch similar application-based shops in the country.

So the saying goes “Once Created, Once Destroyed”. That’s it for this week blog, Have a great weekend…

Microsoft Bing

Microsoft Bing

While Google slips in new features every few weeks, Microsoft favors the big launch, and for its major push into the search market that launch is today. For the past week, the tech press has been speculating that instead of using the project’s code name, Kumo, the final product would be called Bing; located at http://www.bing.com, will begin to roll out over the coming days and will be fully deployed worldwide on Wednesday, June 3.

It’s unlikely that Bing will unseat Google anytime soon, but its slick interface and tailored search results certainly give the search giant a run for its money.

Basically, Bing increases the chances that you’ll get the answer you need right on the results page, without the need to click to another site, which may not even have what you’re looking for. Foremost among new features that serve this goal is the “quick-page preview,” which displays text from pages in the results when you hover the mouse over the right side of a result’s entry. It’s one of those “why wasn’t that always there?” features that you quickly become dependent on.

Other ways Bing gets answers you want directly on its results page are in the results text and deep links. And you can search inside large sites or check FedEx or UPS tracking numbers from text boxes right in the results.

Interface wise rather than the blank white screen and logo that greets you on Google, Bing welcomes you with a beautiful, usually geographic but sometimes current-events-related image. The image loads after the search functionality, so it won’t prevent you from starting your search immediately. Live Search had these images, but with Bing you can go back and see all the ones from the last week. At the bottom of the home page you’ll see hot searches and travel and shopping topics, too.

Starting with this first search page, the consistency of interface begins: The left sidebar is always there to offer options, categories, and filters to fine-tune your search results. This is the case whether you’ve performed a video, image, or regular Web search. The consistency is welcome; other search engines use different layouts for each type of search.

Does Bing Have Enough Bling?

Microsoft has identified several of the problems with Web search as it stands today. Much of the time users are not really looking for a Web page but for an answer. By providing results that answer users’ questions immediately rather than requiring them to navigate to another page and back if the first one didn’t yield the info they were looking for, Bing brings value and efficiency to Web searches. I didn’t run into any cases where Google’s results were more relevant than Bing’s, So it’s unlikely that Bing will unseat Google anytime soon, but it’s a good thing for everyone to have more appealing choices, and some competition, when it comes to Web searching.