“[Google Labs] was a separate consideration from 20% time,” a Google spokesperson tells thesocialmediatoday “We don’t have any changes to announce there. We’ll continue to devote a subset of our time to newer and experimental projects.”
Google is famous for letting its employees spend approximately 20% of their time “on projects that aren’t necessarily in [their] job descriptions.” This has given birth to some of Google’s most important products, including Gmail, Google News and Google Reader, the latter of which is a graduate of Google Labs.
Google Labs has often been a conduit for testing out these 20% ideas. Googlers have posted hundreds of experiments to the site, including “graduates” like Google Reader, Goggles, Groups, Maps, Social Search and iGoogle. The company relaunched Google Labs in 2009.
In a blog post, Google said that it needs to focus if it wants “to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead.” These are the same points that CEO Larry Page made during last week’s earnings report.
“Greater focus has also been another big feature for me this quarter — more wood behind fewer arrows,” Page said in his statement. “Last month, for example, we announced that we will be closing Google Health and Google PowerMeter. We’ve also done substantial internal work simplifying and streamlining our product lines. While much of that work has not yet become visible externally, I am very happy with our progress here.”
It seems as if Google’s shutdown of Labs isn’t about ending experiments, but focusing them on existing projects and products. Central to that effort is Google+, the search giant’s social network. We’ve heard several times that there has been more pressure on employees to focus their extra time on improvements to existing projects.
Google may be encouraging its employees to put their extra energy into projects like Google+, rather than creating tangential products. The search giant may also have simply decided that it didn’t need a central place for its experiments. Either way, the closure of Google Labs is the end of the era, but it doesn’t spell the end of 20% time.