Over its long course serving us as the overlord of the Internet, Google has had some good ideas and some bad ideas. I remember first hearing of Google. I was a loyal Yahoo! search engine user, even past the time when Google was considered to be top dog. But eventually I had to cave in and switch. It’s the same with browsers – I was a Firefox fanatic up until six months ago, when I made the switch to Google Chrome. It’s just better. That’s as plainly as I can put it.
However, Google has pushed out some pretty interesting and obscure projects on the side. Google PowerMeter, for example, was a way to keep tabs on how much energy you’re using in your home from a web interface. Never heard of it? You’re probably part of the great majority. I know there are some that you do remember and have been missing, though. Let’s revisit a few.
Though it was never as well-known as some of the alternatives, Google Answers was an online knowledgebase. The difference between Google Answers and its competitors was that it required users to actually post paid bounties for very detailed and researched answers. In the age of the wiki, you don’t need this. The Internet has everything. Though Google Answers hasn’t disappeared into a cloud of dust, it is no longer accepting questions.
So what has come along to replace Google Answers?
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a free service that provides similar functionality. The answers submitted here are community-submitted, based on votes, and are sometimes very unreliable.
Quora is probably the best resource on the Internet for this purpose. It came around in 2010 and has grown huge since then. On Quora, users can collaborate to answer questions by editing the questions themselves and even suggesting edits to users’ answers. It’s a very open format and the Quora community is filled with helpful people.
ChaCha is a mobile solution. It’s been called a “human-guided search engine” that allows users to text in a question and receive a response as quickly as paid specialists are able to research and deliver them. The service is free to use.
As the name makes pretty clear, Google Desktop was essentially Google for your desktop. Using this application, you’d be able to add widgets to your Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop that would allow you to search through all files, emails, web history, and more. While there are a handful of options that could replace the functionality of Google Desktop, two stand out.
If you’re a Windows user, Windows Search is a piece of Microsoft’s operating system that seems to be constantly changed and improved with each advancing version. Google Desktop was most popular in the XP days, but today all of the features it once provided are practically included in Windows right out of the box by using the search field in the Start menu.
There’s also Everything. Like Google Desktop, the name says it all about this search tool. Google Desktop was an attempt at allowing you to search your computer for anything and everything, and this free application allows you to do such tenfold more effectively. Everything is the elite software in this field and we’ve put out several articles that highlight its features. It’s simply the best way to search your Windows system.
iGoogle isn’t being put to rest until November 1, 2013, but it’s the Google service that I’ve put the most hours into. For many years, my browser’s starting page has been iGoogle. It gives me everything I want all on a single page, and I’ll really miss it. iGoogle obviously puts a huge emphasis on elements of Google like their search, RSS reader, and more. The alternatives available are actually much more extensive and flexible.
Netvibes is easily the consensus winner when you’re looking for a virtual dashboard to match, and even better than what iGoogle offered. Though paid accounts are available, I used a free Netvibes account for some time and was overwhelmed by the options available. If you used iGoogle and enjoyed it, you do not need to pay for this service. It offers everything and more.
Last year, Tim put out a great article that introduced six alternatives to iGoogle. Netvibes was on his list. Give that article a look if Netvibes doesn’t offer what you’re after, but I’m very confident in the service. Make sure you check it out.
What other fallen Google services have you had an interest in? We’ve all heard about Google Reader’s upcoming retirement, and we’ve also got a great article to show some viable alternatives. Let us know which products and services you miss and we’ll get some discussion about the next best things in the comments section below!