Google plans to open source Google Sky Map and close down Social Graph API, the Needlebase data management platform, amongst other projects. Dave Girouard, VP of Product Management at Google, announced the product updates in a blog post last week.

Focused Energy

Back in July 2011, Google rebranded Blogger and Picasa while rolling them into the new Google+ service. Launched little more than a year ago, Google Message Continuity (GMC) hasn't performed well enough to keep the company's interest. Girouard writes:

In December 2010 we launched an email disaster recovery product for enterprise customers that use Google's cloud to back up emails originally sent or received in an on-premise, Microsoft Exchange system. In the time since we launched, we've seen hundreds of businesses sign up for it. By comparison, in that same time, we've seen millions of businesses move entirely to the cloud with Google Apps, benefitting from disaster recovery capabilities built directly into Apps. Going forward we've decided to focus our efforts on Google Apps and end support for GMC. Current GMC customers will be able to use GMC for the duration of their contract and are encouraged to consider using Google Apps as their primary messaging and collaboration platform."

GMC's loss is Google Apps' gain, so it makes sense that the company would want to keep existing customers in the Google fold. According to Google, more than 4 million businesses use Google Apps already.

Girouard offers less of an explanation for retiring Needlebase, a platform for acquiring, integrating, cleansing, analyzing and publishing data on the web, which Google acquired less than a year ago from ITA Software. "The technology is being evaluated for integration into Google's other data-related initiatives," he says.

The List Continues

Social Graph API is getting the ax. Girouard says the API isn't experiencing the kind of adoption the company would like. Picnik, the online photo editor that Google acquired in 2010, is also being retired so "the Picnik team can continue creating photo-editing magic across Google products." Premium Picnik members will get a full refund.

For years there has been speculation that Urchin -- the online web analytics product that became the foundation for Google Analytics -- would be shut down. In Girouard's blog post, he says that the company is committed to building an industry-leading analytics product, so they are getting rid of the client-hosted version, Urchin Software. Paul Muret, Director of Engineering, Google Analytics, explained the move in a blog post, saying:

The success of Google Analytics has been incredibly rewarding and humbling, and we are very thankful for the support of our early Urchin customers and investors. The Urchin Software product has now been completely overshadowed by its tremendously popular offspring. And so, it is time that we now complete the cycle by officially retiring the Urchin Software product and focus exclusively on online analytics."

Opening Sky

Google Sky Map, a cool app that lets users explore space, is impressive on your Android but probably won't help you get your job done. Members of the open source community can now get their mitts on the code. Also, Google is collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University to continue developing Sky Map as a series of student projects. It will be exciting to see what the students and community do with this amazing app.

Meanwhile, momentum is building over on Google+. Google invites people to submit questions for the President on YouTube. Some of the top-voted questions will be answered by President Obama in a live-streamed interview on Google+ Hangout, and several participants with the top-voted questions will be selected to join him.