Incorporation of AI and machine learning into apps has shortened the life span of older ones
Failure to generate revenue, and technology upgrades that diminish the value, make apps unviable
Google’s social network Google+ will no longer be available to the general public from April. Launched in 2011 to compete with Facebook, the platform failed to make a significant impact on the social media ecosystem.
Google+, however, is not the only Google app that will be killed. Google’s email app Inbox, too, will be scrapped in March as many of its features have been integrated into the primary Gmail app. Moreover, the commercial version of Hangouts’ messenger and Duo will also go sometime in 2020 since Google plans to launch eight new messaging platforms by then.
Broadly, there are two reasons to kill an app. Either there is some technology upgrade that diminishes the use case, or the app hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the company in terms of penetration or user base, points out Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst, techARC. The consumer version of Google+, for instance, “currently has low usage and engagement—90% of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds," Ben Smith, Google vice president of engineering, said in an official blog post in October. The failure to generate revenue is another factor which makes an app unviable. According to data analytics firm Sensor Tower, Facebook raised less than $5,000 from Moments in January 2019. It’s hardly any surprise, then, that Facebook plans to shutter Moments by the end of this month.
In some cases an app is replaced with another to streamline it with a wider suite of apps—Wunderlist being a case in point. Microsoft acquired the Berlin-based startup 6Wunderkinder and replaced it with its own “To Do", following which Wunderlist will not get any updates or bug fixes and will be retired at an unsaid date in future.
“To Do was launched as a part of Office 365. As a result of this seamless integration with Office 365, the app can provide better alignment and a more holistic collaboration experience for its customers. It can also be tweaked as per the users’ needs," says Thomas George, senior vice president and head, CMR India.
The fact that developers are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make their apps intelligent and enhance user experiences, is also one of the reasons impacting the life span of older apps. Google, for instance, discontinued the “News and Weather" and “Play Newsstand" apps to offer an AI-powered News app built from scratch. AI-enabled Google Assistant, on its part, has replaced Google Now. The decision to kill an app can be influenced by many reasons, so its cannot be said that its demise was related to incorporating AI into apps’ system, says Sachin Dev Duggal, founder and CEO, Engineer.ai. However, he adds, that there is a likelihood of that happening in case of apps that don’t utilize modern day tools like AI across the life cycle of their business.
The rollout of the General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) in the European Union, too, is another factor since apps have to protect the data privacy of individuals and be more transparent, failing which they will have to pay a heavy penalty. Google’s decision to kill Google+ sooner than it had earlier planned, for instance, was also due to an application programming interface (API) vulnerability that put the privacy of millions of users at risk.
But what happens to users when you kill an app? Developers, in most instances, give users ample time to take a back up or move their data to a newer version.
As a case in point, Microsoft gave Wunderlist users the option to import lists from it to the To Do app. Similarly, Google+ users can save specific or all their data (pages, photos and videos) to Google Drive or Dropbox. However, switching to new apps is not always smooth for users. While Kawoosa feels there are very few apps that are unique, Duggal from Engineer.ai believes that when companies choose to voluntarily take their apps off the market, a gap exists for loyal customers. This leaves room for other companies to offer a new, better solution to the market.