10 Failed Google Projects

After leaving Google in frustration in 2007, Dennis Crowley went on to develop the immensely popular Foursquare, which enables users to find nearby friends, retailers and deals. Screen capture by HowStuffWorks staff

In 2005, two Google acquisitions in particular stick out: Android, and Dodgeball. Android, of course, has no place being discussed in this article. But Dodgeball is more interesting, as the first case on our list of Google acquiring and developing an idea that eventually succeeded elsewhere, becoming the current standard.

Dodgeball was a location-specific social networking site and was acquired, along with cofounder Dennis Crowley, in May 2005 [source: Seigler]. Again, we see the forward-thinking merge between online and real-world life, as applications like this use smartphone technology to connect us, tout our social experiences and favorite locations, and send out all manner of food portraiture to everyone we know. Perfect Google situation, right?

So what happened? Well, nothing. For two years, that is, until Crowley left Google in frustration and founded Foursquare. The blame here rests in the fact that the idea was too prescient, that the hardware took too long to catch up to the idea, but catch up it did. Now, of course, Google's got Latitude, and Facebook's Places may take the Foursquare crown as the check-in app of choice.

Of course, neither of those latter apps have what made Foursquare such a hit -- the gamification aspect, in which demonstrated loyalty to a given business or location results in various badges and bells -- but if we follow our "real world parallel" model, it seems those extra features won't really matter as much moving forward.

Users check in now because that's just what you do. It's not to get a virtual treat; checking in is faster and easier than tweeting or Facebooking our location to our friends. And with location mapping becoming a standard part of photo apps like Instagram, the concept of the check-in itself has morphed itself into closer approximation of what the connected life has become: The augmentation, rather than the replacement, of reality.