Google released an interesting Webmaster Help video today. This time, Matt Cutts takes on the topic of Google shutting down products, which is rather timely, considering that Google is getting ready to shut down homepage backgrounds, and a number of people are upset about it.
The user-submitted question is: "Matt, we often hear about Google 'killing off' products. Why do you guys do this? Are you just being mean or "out to get" us SEOs? Sounds like there is something bigger going on. Could you please elaborate?"
Cutts says he asked the user what they meant, and they gave him the example of the Wonder Wheel and iGoogle.
Cutts says this is an informal opinion, but then proceeds to respond, "In my experience, Google is pretty good about trying to explore the space. We want to try out new things. Unless you're trying things out - like if you're trying to ski, and you never fall - then you're not really pushing yourself hard enough. So we do try out a bunch of different ideas. At the same time, some of those ideas are not going to work out."
When you can see that a particular project is "not going to succeed," he says, it might be time to put those resources (machines or engineers) into a different project. Sometimes, he says, something just doesn't get enough traction over time.
"It can also be the case that maybe you build a product, and then the internal infrastructure that we use changes over time...evolves. I like to joke that the half life of code at Google is about six months. If you wait six months and go back to a particular section of code, like half of it will have changed. So there's a lot of stuff going on internally under the hood to make our systems better at Google, but if you happen to fork off, and you're on a strange little evolutionary path, so to speak, and then after a while people are like, 'Oh, that is three generations behind our current technology, and we don't even know how to get back to where we were before,' then sometimes it's easier to think about shutting down that project or rewriting it with newer technology or folding that functionality into a different thing."
"It's not malice," he assures us.
That's really only part of his answer, so watch the video for the rest, but he does make the point that if it has enough users, it's unlikely that Google will shut it down. It's unclear how many people are using background images.