Google’s wild ride of service shutdowns never stops. Next up on the chopping block is Google Trips, a trip organization app that is popular with frequent travelers. Recently Google started notifying users of the pending shutdown directly in the Trips app; a splash screen now pops up before the app starts, saying “We’re saying goodbye to Google Trips Aug 5,” along with a link to a now all-to-familiar Google shutdown support document.
Trips was a well-received app with over five million downloads on the Play store and a 4.1 rating. Usually when you schedule a trip, a plethora of reservation emails arrive in your inbox for things like the plane flight, hotel, and/or car rental, and Google Trips would automatically suck up all this information and create a basic outline of your trip. From there it leveraged Google Maps information, displaying nearby attractions, things to do, and other planning information. When you needed to quickly reference something, it was a lot easier to open Google Trips than it was to start digging through your email inbox. Trips also had a focus on offline information access, downloading all this reservation information and even prompting you to download your destination area in Google Maps for offline access.
The death of Google Trips is part of Google’s big travel revamp. The company recently launched the Google Travel website, which in addition to most of the Trips information, also serves as (wait for it…) a search engine for hotels, flights, and travel agency-style combo bookings. Google Travel is full of advertisements—the site is probably 50 percent ads, and these are very poorly labeled and look like the core user interface. Entire UI elements like “Check Availability” and “Select a room” just have “Ads” next to the main title, indicating the entire section or page is an advertisement. The point of interest information seems to be organic information from Google Maps, but I think every actionable item (like booking hotels and flights) eventually leads to a list of exclusively paid ads.
Regardless of how horrible and full of ads Google Travel is, it is only a website and not an app, so it is not a replacement for Google Trips. Google’s message notes that “many”—not “all”—of Trips’ features will “live on in other Google products.” Apparently those two features are Google Maps and Google Search. In search, you can type in “My trips” or “my past trips” and you’ll be sent to the Google Travel website, which still contains your info from Trips. A mobile website is not ideal. Google’s support page notes that in the future, Google Maps will display trip reservations in the “My Places” screen. This new “upcoming” section exists on my phone, but it doesn’t show past trips, and I don’t have any future trips, so I’m not sure if it works yet. The support page claims it is a future feature.
This is by our count the 13th Google shutdown this year, which has previously includes the Chromecast Audio, YouTube Annotations, Google Fiber’s service in Louisville, Android Things’ IoT support, Google Allo,
Spotlight Stories, the goo.gl URL shortener, Gmail’s IFTTT support, Google Inbox, Google+, various bits of Nest, and the YouTube Gaming app and portal. Later this year we’ll get to deal with the death of Google Hangouts and Google Play Music.
Increasingly, Google users are having the perfectly functional tools they rely on taken away on a whim, and I think these rapid-fire shutdowns are damaging the Google brand with the user base that matters the most: current Google customers. Some of these shutdowns represent a complete abandonment of a user base, and others represent a disruptive transition to a new and different service. Either option is a bad look for Google and makes its products look unreliable and untrustworthy. In this case it’s unclear what the new service’s Google Maps integration will look like, and funneling users to the ad-heavy Google Travel website is not a welcome change.
Google’s potential for damage isn’t just about its brand. Whenever the company kicks its users off of one of its services, the users are forced to adopt something new. Google hopes everyone will follow the instructions on the transition support page, but if you’re going to have to change your habits anyway, why not take stock of the wider market? Comfortable users with working products stick around. Shutting down a product forces users to adopt a new service, and that new service won’t necessarily be a Google product.
Listing image by Google