Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Does this mean that running high-risk project inside Google started to damage the reputation of Google? Many (most) of the moonshot projects failed (which is normal), and I have the feeling that these events had a somewhat bad fallout on the image of the whole company (questioning its invicibility to some extent, mostly in the eyes of the press).

I think you're right. Google was devolving into a fragmented corporation with no direction or vision. Alphabet helps the Google brand by de-fragmenting it and turning it into the "internet services" arm and putting Google X, Life Sciences, etc etc into their own, protected, sandboxes.

> Does this mean that running high-risk project inside Google started to damage the reputation of Google?

I don't think it hurt the consumer reputation, and it can't be about the investor reputation, since those things are still inside the entity (Alphabet) that investors will care about (at least, until a way to invest in the new "core" Google directly is offered, which may be part of the long-term plan -- it would explain why they indicated that they will report Google's financials separately within Alphabet's.)

Things like the self-driving car don't really fit the Google brand or corporate structure.

Is there a list of moonshots failed?

Wave, Plus, Glasses at least.

If we are to include less ambitious stuff, Google Video, Orkut, Chromebooks (never went far), Reader, Google Code, Dart, nothing much came out of Morotola, etc.

And let's see were those "self driving cars" will go, market-wise...

Google Video was merged into Youtube

Orkut was wildly successful in Brazil and India, until they stopped building it for Buzz and Plus

Reader was hugely successful, which is why the outcry on its closing

Chromebooks are doing great, atleast on Amazon, the world's biggest retailer.

Dart pivoted into a compile-to-JS language, but is still alive

Motorola streamlined it's product lineup under Google and is doing fairly okay for Lenovo

Calling above items as failure is inaccurate. None of them were moonshots btw.

> Dart pivoted into a compile-to-JS language, but is still alive

Dart started as a compile-to-JS language for web use with a VM for server use, with an browser-hosted VM for development with a long-term plan that compile-to-JS might not be necessary on the web.

And its still a compile-to-JS language for web use with a VM for server use, with an browser-hosted VM for development use.

Google Video, and Orkut, were complete failures and no longer exist. Successful products don't disappear without a trace. If they are closed by management when they otherwise might have succeeded, that is failure.

Reader was a failure according to Google itself, which closed it due to supposed lack of interest. Once again, if the decision to close it was an error by your criteria, then they failed.

The rest I would agree with.

Of course if we go back to the original question, Orkut and Reader were hardly "moonshots" in the first place (and Google Video was arguably just a standard project launch).

Google's own canonical example of a moonshot is Android. By that definition, Orkut and Reader qualify just fine.

> Google's own canonical example of a moonshot is Android

Is it?

> By that definition, Orkut and Reader qualify just fine

If everything is a moonshot, nothing is, etc.

AFAIK both projects were just 20% time projects scaled up to three or four people[1]. A "moonshot" is obviously a wishy-washy term, but opportunity for success doesn't seem to be sufficient to call something that.

[1] http://massless.org/?archive=2007/05/about-google-readers-bi...

> Is it?

Yes. They first used the word when referring to Andy Rubin's departure from Android.

If you watch a video on youtube today it's actually hosted on googlevideo.com or something (i know because uBlock). I assume they threw the youtube backend away when they bought it :) So in that sense google video is still alive, just a different name.

I wound not read too much into domain names. I notice when I log into gmail it goes to accounts.youtube.com.

> Orkut was wildly successful in Brazil and India

If you are Google that reads as "Orkut only got traction in Brazil and India, hence failure". Maybe they could have sold it to some smaller company, but they tried to move the customers to their other services instead.

> Reader was hugely successful, which is why the outcry on its closing

Umm, no. Reader was not hugely successful. Users loved the idea of using Reader but they did not actually use it.

Chromebooks are pretty popular. The first generation wasn't very good but the more recent ones are selling well.

Reader was very popular relative to the size of the RSS reader market.

Google bought Motorola for the patent portfolio and sold off the rest, so I'm not sure how that was a failure. Motorola also turned around their mobile division with the Moto X under Google (over 100% increase in mobile sales due to the Moto X and company line of products)

I remember Orkut being very popular in Asia for a while.

All of that I wont argue with, except the characterization that reader was a success because Google owned the market.

I dont see how G closing down reader could have that count in the success column, especially considering how much bad blood it bred for G (and how little effort it would have likely meant to maintain it.)

Reader was the living kernel of what could have potentially been a successful Google social network.

Orkut was heavily used in Brazil (and India, according to Wikipedia).

Aren't Chromebooks the best selling laptop on amazon or something?

They are. They're really well used in the education sector now too, for good reason.

Yes, they sell decently, but do no represent any profit for Google (which gives the OS for free).

It's around 5-6 million units sold anually, but, as Google themselves said, Google don't make any money of off them.

Samsung, Acer, etc, who produce the units do, but again, in total it represents a tiny slither of laptop profits due to the small margins. Most Chromebooks (70%) go to the education market as cheapo laptops.

I would imagine that Google indirectly profits by having more users using Google as their default search engine and by encouraging the world to rely more on the web.

Edit: Also, in the past Google would pay Firefox to have its users use Google as the default search engine and Google gets the equivalent of this for free with each Chromebook sold.

If direct profit generation is the measure of failure for Google then they've failed at basically everything except for advertising.

Even taking indirect advertising profit into question, they've failed at basically everything.

E.g. with all the billions developing Android, buying Motorola etc, they still make the large majority of mobile ad money on iOS devices!


They suffer from the gulf state problem where they make so much money from one thing that nothing else will ever be important enough to really be successful.

Thankfully revenue streams are more complex than just, "Did we make more money than it cost to produce this unit sold?" in a vacuum.

It's 2015 and companies compete for user timeshare, not dollars.

Reader was the top web application in its market for almost a decade. I'd like to have that kind of failure.

Maybe the only Google "failure" to have people protest its closure: http://www.tbd.com/blogs/tbd-arts/2011/10/occupy-google-read...

You can achieve it very easily if you don't have profits.

E.g. you can open a web application selling $10 for $5 today and I guarantee you it's gonna be a huge success.

wave and plus hardly count as moonshots. they're about as boring as projects get.

None of them are moonshots, I thought that the moonshot part is the one under the X Labs Umbrella

Dart and Chromebooks failures? Since when

Since Dart never went anywhere adoption-wise, and even abandoned plans for its own VM in browsers (not to mention its purpose obsoleted by the announcement of WebAssembly -- since devs will be able to use ports of much more established languages for web programming).

And since Google-made Chromebooks never sold well, and those by third parties (Acer, Samsung, etc) don't make much money for their manufacturers and no money at all for Google, and all constrained to the niche educational market (schools buying them for their students).

> since devs will be able to use ports of much more established languages for web programming

Sure, they'll be able to use any language they like, as long as it's C or C++. :)

There is currently no story for using any high level language (read: language that uses GC) like Ruby or Python as a web language by way of WebAssembly.

>There is currently no story for using any high level language (read: language that uses GC) like Ruby or Python as a web language by way of WebAssembly.

Actually that's part of the whole point of WebAssembly -- as Eich put it. It's not just to speedup emscripten style ports of C/C++ programs.

Eich's words: "Bottom line: with co-evolution of JS and wasm, in a few years I believe all the top browsers will sport JS engines that have become truly polyglot virtual machines".

I understand that's his goal, but I believe actually getting there is quite a ways off and may ultimately never happen. Of course, you can never say never on the web, but going from supporting C/C++ to supporting, say, Ruby or Python is a pretty fundamental change in how the system works.

If you can use C or C++, why could you not use interpreted languages (including those with GC) whose implementation is in C or C++?

GC and runtime.

A modern GC is a large, complex beast. Python, Ruby, Lua, etc. all have their own implementations of them, and those implementations are specific to the semantics of those languages. (For example, Python's early finalizers. Ruby's FFI, etc.) That's a big blob of code for you to push down the wire with your application every time the user hits your site.

Also, that GC doesn't know how to play nice with the browser's own GC. If you have an event handler that has a reference to some Ruby object that in turn has a reference to some DOM node, neither GC can trace through that path and tell when those objects can be collected. That means you get memory leaks.

On top of that, the language implementation itself is large. The Python executable on my machine is 2 MB. Do you want to add another 2 MB to your app? Is Python enough better than JS to justify forcing all of your users on their crappy mobile networks to download that before any interactivity begins on your page? What about when you start using the additional 45 MB of standard library that comes with Python?

Also, how do you make those standard libraries work in a browser? Who is going to rewrite them all to stop using the native OS libraries they currently use and instead rely on APIs that are available in JS?

That's not to say this is an insurmountable problem. But my belief is that it's a big enough headache to outweigh the benefits you would get from writing your app in another higher level language.

Now, if your language can compile to JavaScript and has a decently small runtime library, that's a different story. At that point, you're back to only one GC and relatively little overhead for your language's semantics and core libraries. It means you don't have to worry about a large existing standard library that #includes everything under the sun.

This is why I think CoffeeScript, ClojureScript, Dart, etc. are feasible. But I don't think anyone will be writing web apps in Ruby or Python anytime soon. Languages that look syntactically similar to them (Opal, Red, Pyjamas, Brython, etc.), sure. But the real deal where you can have some app that does, I don't know, "import requests" and have it actually work in a shippably-sized web app? I think that's going to be a much harder path.

It's a great goal for the WebAssembly folks to work towards, but it's an aspirational goal.

Search for "The Google Graveyard". Someone made a thing about all the stuff Google killed off.

Wave and Plus were not moonshots

It would be a good thing explain why the downvotes

They were absolutely pitched as huge ideas that would change everything we know about email and social networks. Bearing the scars of their public failures, Google started calling new projects moonshots to shape perception of the programs as chasing ideas, while preemptively deflecting any criticism of their readiness or desirability to large markets. They are not materially different from moonshots except in presentation.

What huge ideas? Social network inside a browser was never a new idea, no matter how hard Google was pitching.

Circles for different messages to different groups, as well as the universal profile for logging into all your favorite Google services. It's not my fault these were harebrained ideas, but they were presented as revolutionary. The ideas are still arguably revolutionary (Slack delivers where Wave failed) but Google's execution was lacking. Same fundamental issue facing so many of their other programs.

Hyves in NL had the 'circles' thing before Facebook even existed, let alone before Google went public with G+.

And the Russians dreamed of going to the moon but that's the rub with consumer products - the market has to accept them for it to be an accomplishment. Google thought they'd found the magic recipe and pitched it as something for everyone that was a huge breakthrough. Being first with features or flows doesn't matter at all. The only thing that matters is making it relevant to users' lives, which all parties failed at. Circles is a bad model for a mass market.

Hyves had big acceptance in NL at some point it was one of the largest websites here, Facebook ate their lunch.

They were absolutely moonshots. Reforming the entire way we do realtime communications? Reforming the entire way we do social interaction? Total moonshots, they just failed, but if they succeeded they would be billion dollar businesses.

BTW, the best result of wave is hackpad, IMHO.

Wave was supposed to completely blow away email.

Plus was intended to eat Facebook's lunch.

They were both huge moonshots.

I think the implication about a moonshot is that nobody has been to the moon before the moonshot. The thing about Facebook's lunch is that lunch happens ever day at noon.

> They were both huge moonshots.

Unfortunately, they used https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N1_(rocket) for the rockets.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact