How long should we expect Google Keep to last?

On the Guardian, Charles Arthur has totted up the lifespan of 39 products and services that Google has killed off in the past due to insufficient public interest. One interesting finding is that Google is becoming less patient with its less popular progeny, with an accelerating trend to killing off products that aren't cutting it. This was occasioned by the launch of Google Keep, a networked note-taking app which has the potential to become quite central to your workflow, and to be quite disruptive if Google kills it -- much like Google Reader, which is scheduled for impending switch-off.

So if you want to know when Google Keep, opened for business on 21 March 2013, will probably shut - again, assuming Google decides it's just not working - then, the mean suggests the answer is: 18 March 2017. That's about long enough for you to cram lots of information that you might rely on into it; and also long enough for Google to discover that, well, people aren't using it to the extent that it hoped. Much the same as happened with Knol (lifespan: 1,377 days, from 23 July 2008 to 30 April 2012), or Wave (1,095 days, from May 2009 - 30 April 2012) or of course Reader (2,824 days, from 7 October 2005 to 1 July 2013).

If you want to play around further with the numbers, then if we assume that closures occur randomly as a normal distribution around the mean, and that Google is going to shut Google Keep, then there's a 68% chance that the closure will occur between April 2015 and February 2019. Even the later date wouldn't be much longer than Evernote - which is still growing - has already lasted. Is Google really that committed to Keep?

Google Keep? It'll probably be with us until March 2017 - on average (via /.)


  1. Great headline. I loved the story about what OTHER products they should retire instead of Reader. They’re also canning iGoogle. What’s wrong with RSS? Twitter hates it. For some daily tasks the old ways flat-out work. Sometimes I need to scan just the headlines for a dozen sites.

      1. I’m trying Netvibes. Similar multi-tab multi-column headline-fest to the way I use iGoogle.  

    1. It seems that “what’s wrong with RSS” is that it’s hard to monetize.  Paul Krugman has a blog post today (“The Economics of Evil Google”) about how even monopolists like Google can sometimes find that there’s no profitable price at which they can offer a service.

      1. I came here to say that. As far as I can see, it almost works too well; you would have to put an obvious barrier in the way to make any income. One of the issues that I haven’t heard bloggers comment about though is the loss of income that they must have from RSS readers. You’re basically taking the raw information and bypassing any advertising on the site. Does anyone know what (if anything) is available if you still wanted to get income from advertising as a blogger?

        1. I follow BoingBoing from reader, and I’ve seen two models: Share only the headline (or headline + first paragraph) as a hook for user to click trough the main article, or add advertisement in the feed after the article. 
          And I believe the first model (used by BoingBoing) is winning.

          1. I really prefer the second model. Clicking through is often a total waste of time. I don’t even know how many tabs I run through a day now.

          2. I read BoingBoing on Google Reader with my Android phone. You have the headline and first paragraph to read through, then you can click through to the text with pictures from the article but no ads. If you want to see the comments you can click the link at the bottom to see just the comments without the article (and still without ads). There is a link to the main site, but unless you actually want to comment you can read everything without seeing any ads. I don’t know if it’s China, my phone or BB (probably China), but I can’t use the comment box that’s in the comment section itself.

        2.  Well, for starters, some bloggers still don’t blog for money (I know, very 20th century of us). Also, RSS is great for things like tracking Flickr groups and comments, pending comments on my blogs, sites that rarely update but I still want to keep track of, and the real news sites, which I’d visit much LESS if I weren’t seeing headlines of interest in my RSS reader.

          1. I am aware that some (most) bloggers don’t do it for money, I was just trying to work out who gains and loses from this system. It seems the reader is the person who gains the most, while I’d have thought Google gains through the loyalty of its users (who would probably be disproportionally vocal online). Even if the tool itself isn’t making them money, having something like this would be good for Google’s image at least. For smaller bloggers, the increased readership (from people who wouldn’t otherwise have time to follow them) would probably outweigh any losses, while the comment tracking tools you mentioned and the benefit to bloggers as readers themselves should be more than enough to make up the difference. I’m just surprised that I haven’t heard any complaints from the ‘definitely for profit’ groups such as newspapers or larger sites that have paid staff and obviously get a lot of their funding from advertising.

    2. Exactly. I subscribe to a pretty large number of websites and have worked on my efficiency so well that’s it just a routine part of my day. I even found this article through my beloved Google Reader. I don’t think I’ve been pissed at Google yet in the 12-13 years I’ve used them, but Google is just now reaching its teens and making some very poor decisions.

  2. My favorite bit is about the “core” living on.  What defines the core?  Why, anything Google hasn’t decided to discontinue!  Everything that hasn’t been discontinued is still available!  The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club!

    1. Arguably, the parts of Google which people actually use. :-) I spent quite a while searching this morning, and I wasn’t able to find any more than a single digit percentage of Internet users having knowingly used an RSS reader. I’m willing to be corrected on that, but for now I just have to assume that Google’s main misfortune here is not a bad decision but the fact that Reader’s users are disproportionately represented in the news media and blogosphere.

      1. Google’s main misfortune here is not a bad decision but the fact that Reader’s users are disproportionately represented in the news media and blogosphere.

        Wouldn’t that alone be a good reason to keep it around?

        Anyhow, the point here is, why should anyone trust their ecosystem if it is so tenuous? Google Reader wasn’t some beta product. It might not have been universally adopted– which STILL blows my mind, like, how do people even use the internet without a feed reader? Checking all their websites compulsively, I guess?– but even their “drop in usage” statistics were…created by Google lobotomizing their product.

          1. Please, then. Find me a feed reader that keeps track of your unread feeds, is easy to setup/use, can be accessed from any computer, and has an Android app.

            Also, it displays feeds as a list. I did not find myself enjoying Feedly.

            Again, please. Be my guest in suggesting replacements that fulfill those requirements. Google Reader was easily the best RSS tool. There is no arguing this.

          2. Don’t misread me – I still think it was the best, but the comment I was replying to made it seem as if it was the only feed reader.

          3. I concur. Feedly blows at this point. its just way too slow to go through my 500+ articles

        1. how do people even use the internet without a feed reader?

          Consider how many people still use IE6, then work back from there.

        2. “It might not have been universally adopted– which STILL blows my mind, like, how do people even use the internet without a feed reader? Checking all their websites compulsively, I guess?”
          On the opposite, I never understood the point of RSS. If I check 3-4 websites daily, what’s the point of having the title of their articles all mixed up in some ‘reader’ ? I still need to go to them to read the content. That’s a useless extra layer. I’d rather keep those tabs always open in Firefox and check whenever I feel like it.

          1. You’re probably not the user type that RSS readers are targetted at. If you want to keep on top of 3 to 4 *hundred* websites a day then you need an RSS reader. The article titles are not all jumbled up together unless you choose to set things that way, generally you organise sites by category/hierarchy so that with a single click you can see all the new headlines from a single site, expand any that look interesting, and only go to the site itself for those few that merit further investigation.

            Google’s big mistake here is not realising that those that use RSS readers a lot are also those that run blogs and generate influence online, hence all the hate.

          2. Honestly, RSS becomes useful (to me) at far fewer than that number of feeds — the usefulness comes more from the type and timing of updates. Many of the feeds I read have sometimes erratic updating schedules. (Friends’ and colleagues’  blogs are like that as are most not-professional media sites.) Reader allowed me to aggregate them into a single, more regularly updated, site.
            For other types of sites, I’ve found other tactics more useful. With webcomics, “open all bookmarks in folder” once a day is pretty efficient.

          3. They’re basically kicking one of the upper tiers of information transfer on the Internet right in the nuts. My understanding is that RSS and primary writers work in a loop, this stuff finds its way onto Reddit, which then finds its way onto Facebook and other social forums. Even if many people don’t use it, it has a dramatic effect on what the Internet actually is, if only because everyone brushes up against something that came in contact with RSS all the damn time when they’re on the Internet.

          4. You check websites daily? I don’t even go to websites unless I’ve clicked something in an article. If I checked my sites 3-4 times daily, I’d be checking 80-120 sites daily. That’s so much time. Feed readers are about making this process efficient so you aren’t wasting your whole day checking websites.

            Your habits do not at all reflect the habits of those that use feeds. I used to do exactly what you do, checking the same website a few times a day, then another website, then another. When I finally found out about Google Reader, it was a godsend. All these websites I was checking had RSS feeds and I didn’t even know about it. I’ve literally stopped checking websites for update information unless they lack an RSS feed.

            Your habits, when put against a reader, would change so dramatically that you’d wonder why you weren’t doing it to begin with. It is truly that awesome of a technology.

          5. Pretty sure this is what Twitter is for..?  When used with the likes of Tweetdeck, or Seesmic.  These are all either standalone, or operate in a single tab, and all have mobile versions.  Heck, you can just use  You can’t get the whole first paragraph necessarily, but a link, maybe an image, and a few words about it are all I need to assess whether or not I wanna click through.  You can organise by groups, you can filter all you like.  It’s RSS but punchier.  Writers/developers have to put in a little more work (as they can’t have content subscribed and auto delivered like RSS allows) but there are many sites around that will auto-push updates when you post something on your blog/site. being one of the best.

        3. …how do people even use the internet without a feed reader? Checking all their websites compulsively, I guess?

          That sounds remarkably like 60s housewives worried about missing an episode of General Hospital.

        4. how do people even use the internet without a feed reader?

          This will probably seem inconceivable(!), but the vast majority of internet users aren’t invested in the whole “constantly connected, unending stream of information” model. They come online, do what they’re there for, then leave. An RSS feed serves no purpose for them. RSS has always been primarily a geek toy.

          1. Yes, but…uh, an RSS feed reader would STILL provide them the best way of getting what is there for them? You don’t HAVE to load it up with hundreds of feeds.

  3. I won’t put anything mission critical on a google service since this reader thing. Its just stupid to. I’ll continue to use Docs to share some things with workmates, but I’ll keep my originals. Calendar – forget it. Gmail – no way. How do they expect any service to grow when we are afraid to use it?

    If they change their mind on Reader, then we’ll see, see if they are turning over a new leaf. As my mentor once said, “Fool me once, shame on me…”

    Google, in case you did not realize this is what you call a Feedback Loop.

        1. Or legitimate reply to facile comment is legitimate.

          Relying on a free service for mission critical processes epitomises facile reasoning, as does threatening said free service provider with the sanction of not using their other free services.

          1. Aren’t they making money off of their other free services by selling advertising? If so, then a smaller user base reduces their ability to make money. Whether or not they’ll experience any measurable loss of users because they’re shutting down Reader is a different issue.

            I will say that their tendency to kill products relatively quickly makes me less likely to try other Google products.

          2. Yes, broadly speaking one less user means a little less revenue but Google simply does not care: it will cost them more to get in touch and find out what’s up (as just about any paid for service will) than your custom is worth.

          3. “Free” services mostly monetize themselves by selling yur data to to target advertising – isn’t this a known fact by now?

          4. I certainly assumed so, in fact my post was predicated on precisely that. Unfortunately I also assumed that it was widely known (or at least could be deduced) that the worth to Google of a single user is trivially small. In your case, alas, I erred.

          5. [Hmm, can’t seem to reply onto Stooge’s comment below, so I’ll put it here:]

            Well, I’m certainly not implying that.

            I’m rather trying to point out the universal faulty language of referring to all these services as “free”.
            As a point of principle, I think we must start making a distinction between genuinely free services, and those funded by selling data on us.
            It should also become common practice for companies to state this.
            Admittedly, I did a very poor job at this.

            So, in any case, your point on refunds stands, as we are not even customers, rather just users.

    1. No offense, but unless you had a paying contract with Google that said they guarantee a certain level of support for a certain period of time, with either built in penalties or options to litigate if that level of support was not provided, this probably should have been your attitude from the beginning. There’s a big difference between ‘useful service that makes me more productive’ and ‘service on which I can rely for critical functions’. My understanding is that google does offer such arrangements, for example if you buy Google apps appliances/software for your own business.

      I’ll admit to relying heavily on Google for email and calendaring, but not for anything that affects my livelihood (my employer’s exchange server is for that), and you can be sure they spend a ton of money guaranteeing that works reliably and securely and won’t go away next week. Although, they are only now migrating away from WinXP, so that may not be a sure thing either. :-)

      1. Without those guarantees, Google is loudly saying, “You’re not important; we’re not important.” Odd sort of message to broadcast.

    2. Gmail is one of Google’s oldest services, actually. If you count the time it was in closed beta, it’s been around 9 years. Wikipedia claims: “As of June 2012, it is the most widely used web-based email provider with over 425 million active users worldwide.”

      Of course, I thought longevity was a reason I’d never have to fear losing iGoogle or Reader, both of which lasted 8 years, but…yeah.

      1. Longevity isn’t a good reason, but usage is. 425 million active users means Gmail’s likely to stick around a while yet.

      2. That’s what’s so shocking to me about it. How much maintenance was actually required to keep it running? H ow much updating needed to be done? It worked, and it worked well. What serious resources was this eating up? I just hope they have an appropriate replacement in the works. I would not mind Google+ integration, I’d even support it. But only if I did not lose functionality. Right now, sharing into Google+ is kind of a pain. Sharing into Google Buzz (REMEMBER THAT!?) was a lot easier and I ended up with a number of followers on both. I just hope Google isn’t trying to kill off RSS the same way they’re trying to kill off MicroSD.

      3. Google closed reader to push more users to g+. What happens if they integrate gmail with g+, to the point where your messages are combined with the spammy g+ messages?

    3. I’m just as pissed over this as you are. I’ve been a huge huge fan of Google and their services, but this marks the first time I am genuinely pissed off and distrustful of the company.

  4.  There is an important lesson here:  If you rely on a good or service, you should be thinking about…. well the word for it in hardware is ‘diminishing manufacturing sources’, or DMS. Basically, If you’re dependent on an external supplier to meet your personal or professional obligations, it’s up to you to have a plan to deal with obsolescence/loss of those suppliers. (This comes up a lot in military contracts… they want a device that can be maintained for 15-30 years, but unless you have a good plan, it will be very hard to supply replacement computer chips and skilled workers that were current that long ago. )

  5. The conclusion here is incorrect. You can’t just selectively average the killed products. When you decide to use a product, you don’t know ahead of time whether it will survive in the long term (like Google Maps or Google News), or whether it will be killed. Thus, assuming that it will be killed will bias the results. If Google had one thousand successful products (let’s set the criteria for that as lasting >10 years) and 100 failed ones that lasted an average of 4 years, would we be telling people to only expect a Google product to last 4 years?

    1.  Except google killed it’s last two notebook projects, so odds seem pretty damn good it will kill this one too.

      1. Considering that Google don’t seem to have given up the idea of a notebook project, why don’t they offer to migrate our notes from Notebook Project #n to NP #n+1?

        1. I saved mine, so there’s no reason I couldn’t do just that if this appears to have greater utility than Evernote. A large portion of those had been migrated from Yahoo’s notepad.

          My interests are served just fine so long as there’s plenty of warning before a service shutdown, and convenient ways to back up and migrate the data.

          If the services I’m using now are still the best for those functions ten years from now, I’ll be quite disappointed. If they are still the same 20 years from now, surely I will bubble the preservative in my brain-jar in seething rage.

    2. Kind of like the studies from a couple of decades ago demonstrating that rock stars died really young on average.

  6. Just out of interest what is the average lifespan of any web based software/service?  Any data out there on that one?

  7. He’s not taking into account that the products being canned were introduced before Larry Page became CEO.

  8. I think Google gets a bit of a bad rap for killing products.  *If* you are going to be the sort of company that puts up all sorts of different types of product to see what “sticks”, then you are going to *have* to kill products regularly so that you don’t get stuck with half your staff supporting essentially obsolete products that lose money.

    If you were using a product from a smaller shop where the product was their core offering, then yes, they wouldn’t kill the product, they’d go bankrupt instead.  Either way, you’d be out of luck.

    More to the point, given that we’re trained to understand that web products should be free, any product that isn’t amenable to being advertising supported is probably going to go down in flames once the funding runs out.  It’s unfortunate, but I think there are who classes of products that will never have a long-term future simply because they can’t operate for free, and the idea of paying for any infrastructure beyond our ISP is pretty much unthinkable for the vast majority of the market.

    1. But wouldn’t the satisfying solution, for both company and customerss, be to improve the product so that it will actually bring in money, or failing that, elegantly transfer the users onto a new product?
      Google+ has much of the structure to support a Reader-like structure (for example – ‘circle’ your feeds etc…) so the interface on it could surely have been implemented into a mix of both.

    1. You shouldn’t. In fact few people trust any computer makers any more, in the sense we understand system-specific stuff is temporary, and when we care stick to more portable things like USB.

      A lot of people have been regarding cloud services differently, though. And Google would probably like us to, but here they are showing us you shouldn’t trust them either.

    2. The point is you can still use your NeXT computer, even if Steve Jobs still isn’t building them.

  9. Funny as they are trying push everyone on to cloud dependent hardware they are also fantastically demonstrating the #1 reason not to use cloud services.

  10. What puzzles me is how few ISPs have been offering cloud services or at least services on which cloud services can be built. Try finding one that supports CalDav or CardDav. Where is the cloud supplier agnostic version of Dropbox? (A surprising number of applications use DropBox to build their own synchronizing service.) Why should I have to use Apple’s photostream or Evernote’s storage space? It would be really nice to just designate a service that I own for that kind of thing. (I have no problem buying the application and updates.)

  11. The numbers would be higher if you took into account those services google hasn’t killed off.*

    (Pedants:  Imply your own “yet” here, if it helps you sleep.)

  12. Gmail launched in March 2004 and it *really* sucked when Google killed it off in March 2008. /sarcasmBut seriously: I have no problem with Google redirecting resources to things that significant numbers of people use. They shouldn’t be punished for trying and failing (and, yes, even millions of users can be a failure if you need billions for the business model to make sense). As Cory says “if you want to double your success rate, triple your failure rate.”The alternative is supporting niche systems forever, and I respect them for making the tough design choice not to do that. As a developer in charge of a bunch of legacy systems I also admire the *ability* to do that. I’m always looking for plugs to pull and it’s always a hard sell with the business side. These cancellations also given the competition, NewsBlur in this case, a windfall. It’s almost win/win/win/win except for all the bad grapes flying around — I suppose their communication around this could have been clearer.FWIW, Keep is solving a lot of workflow problems for me. And sorry if these points have been covered already — I just had to jump in after seeing these criticisms repeatedly. /ragepost

  13. The average might be 1459 days, but I bet you anything that it’s less because it’s a nonlinear distribution.  I bet that if we plotted the discontinuations as length-of-life by year closed, even without constructing a complicated hazard function, we’d see that projects live shorter lives in general, now.  Just a seat of the pants guess.

    1. That’s only the average of the products they’ve killed – it doesn’t average in the lifetime of the products they haven’t killed.

  14. I wonder if the Long Now people are looking at the question of truly long-term data storage?  Back in the day we used stone carvers for that, but then acid rain messed things up.

    Some people like to imagine the day they can upload themselves and become “immortal.”  But how much data is immortal, really?  Shakespeare…  Beethoven…  not too many tweets, I’ll bet.

  15. I think it will last a while depending on how much google puts into it.  If they develop it well i can see it fitting in well with the other drive products.  

  16. The question that concerns me is how long Google is going to let Google Voice live. Last official news on it is almost a year old (not counting “get a call from Santa” in December), it’s been much longer than that since there were significant improvements or changes, and performance (at least in terms of the Android app) has dropped through the floor – if you can listen to more than the first 0:01 (1 second) of a message on mobile without 3+ clicks on Play you’re a lucky soul, and transcription availability is worse than that.

    And of course, Google Voice turned 4 on March 11, 2013 (based on their 2011 2-year birthday post). We’re on borrowed time.

    1. Hmm, how about this – someone up to mapping official/blog posts and product changes on Google services, and using the frequency of those for predicting the next Google product to die? Might save us all a heap of trouble to see the downward trend ahead of time and just transfer to another product earlier! ;)

  17. That average figure is close to four years (two days short if you count leap-years). 
    To be fair, many of the products that were dropped weren’t that great, and the better features were integrated into related products.
    When you look at the upgrade cycle of most software, and even a lot of hardware (looking at you Apple), four years is doing pretty well.

  18. Maybe I am wrong, but this whole thing to me sounds like people feeling jilted. It seems like everyone saying, “Fox cancelled Arrested Development, so I am never going to watch Fox again!” and then we all tuned in to watch The Simpsons the next week…

    1. Partially, sure, but abandoning RSS seems just idiotic to most of us here – the utility of it is just amazing compared to the alternatives.

      And, for the life of me, I’m am seriously unable to understand how Google couldn’t monetize on users accessing 100’s of feeds (=sites and blogs) all through their Reader – isn’t this what their core is, hundreds of people accessing sites and blogs through their Search!?

      1. Good point. It may be foolish, but perhaps Google has something better in store, and they are really just bad at communicating rather than bad at judging what services people use..?

        I can always hope. Afterall, Arrested Development came back! :)

  19. I am REALLY going to miss Google Reader.  First they take away the social aspects of it because they want us to use Google+, now they just want to get rid of it.  I wish I could change their minds.

  20. When will they understand that we just want to search with Google? Search for words, search for places, search for translations, end of. Don’t put all your peas in one pot seems to be a good philosophy that we follow without even thinking about it :)

  21. I realize that there are people whose work and working methods are net-centric, and I understand why they would be upset to see useful tools and services vanish at the whim of their corporate proprietors. But I wonder why anyone would not at least maintain some kind of backup or alternate function for when such services are withdrawn–or suffer outages or crashes or data loss. I would no sooner leave my research files in the cloud (or depend on an on-line app) than I would leave my wallet on the bar when I go to the john.

    Just to “situate” myself: I’ve been getting information on line since you had to stick a telephone handset into an acoustic modem. I’ve worked through the transition from mailing in typescripts to submitting stories as [insert current industry-standard WP format here] files. Perhaps half of the research data for a long-term (13-years-and-counting) book project originated as on-line data of some sort.

    I’ve had to migrate document and data files to new applications and struggled to keep useful but “obsolete” tools and utilities operational across corporate absorptions, OS upgrades, product-lifetime horizons, withdrawal of support, and other tech evolutions, but they all reside inside my own working environment, which I maintain and (more important) own. (Y’know, Sidekick 98 still works. . . .) Huge changes in the internet itself (or the complete vanishment of Word Perfect) would be very upsetting, but as long as I can send an e-mail, print a document, and save a file (and convert formats), I’m still in business. Though a competent search engine has thoroughly spoiled me, despite my old-school library skills. (Lordy, could I ever tear through a card catalog or reference room!)

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