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Google closes 10 businesses to focus on bigger bets

The Web giant continues to pare its operations, everything from social search to Web security, as it dumps divisions that don't offer the biggest opportunities.

Google chief executive Larry Page continued shedding marginal operations from the Web giant today, shuttering 10 different businesses, including everything from social search to desktop software to Web security.

Google's Alan Eustace
Google's Alan Eustace Google

In announcing the news, Google Senior Vice President Alan Eustace called it a "fall spring-cleaning." Since taking over as chief executive in January, Page has moved to streamline Google's operations, pulling back from niche businesses in order to focus on the biggest bets. Eustace wrote that the new cuts reflect that strategy.

"This will make things much simpler for our users, improving the overall Google experience," Eustace wrote. "It will also mean we can devote more resources to high-impact products."

And Eustace said that all of the employees working on the closing businesses will be moved to other Google posts.

Some of the businesses that are closing came from acquisitions, including Aardvark, the social search engine that Google acquired in 2010 for a reported $50 million, and Google Web Security, which was part of the Postini acquisition in 2007.

Other businesses shutting down were once launched with great fanfare. Google's Marissa Mayer debuted Fast Flip, a service that let user read Web pages of magazines and newspapers as though they were flipping through analog copies, at the TechCrunch50 conference in 2009. And when the company launched Google Desktop, a PC application that let users search for files and documents on their computers, in 2004, it was hailed for providing zippier search than the feature native to Windows XP.

Google is also closing Google Pack, a collection of software tools available for download; Google Image Labeler, a game that got users to label pictures to improve the quality of Google's image search results; and Google Notebook, which let users combine clipped URLs from the Web and personal notes into documents.

The company is also closing Sidewiki, which let people comment on Web content; Subscribed Links, which let users create specialized search results that were added to the normal Google search results on some queries for their subscribers; and Google Maps API for Flash, which was created to give ActionScript developers a way to integrate Google Maps into their applications.

Those businesses join an already long list of Google operations that have closed shop in the Page era. In June, Google announced plans to close its Google Health and Google PowerMeter Services, as well as Google Labs. And just last week, Google closed the photo-sharing service Photovine only a week after launching it.