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2019 Year in Review for Creators: From new features to new residents in the Google Graveyard

As 2019 draws to a close, I wanted to take a look back at the top changes in the Googleverse for Creators of all sorts.

My top 2019 creator updates:
Google removed a number of outdated, redundant, and perhaps little-used products and features. While some will be greatly missed, products like Inbox and Allo let Google develop new features which were eventually incorporated into their more established counterparts before they were shut down.

There has also been an increased focus on products aimed at businesses, from the Google+ successor Currents, to Hangouts Meet and Chat, and updates to Google Sites and Voice. It probably makes some sense to design for paying customers.

But there were plenty of updates for consumer users too, from new features on old platforms like Blogger and YouTube, to a new emphasis on podcasts and cool new map story tools.

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Google products we said farewell to in 2019

Google cleaned house in the first quarter of 2019, with a number of redundant, outdated, or otherwise unwanted services shut down. And over the course of the year a number of other significant features

Public & consumer Google+ : The Google+ API stopped working on March 7, and the Google+ social media platform itself stopped working for consumer users on April 2.  All public content has been removed. This even affected users who were not active on Google+, as some remaining Google+-related features were removed from Blogger, YouTube, Calendar, Contacts and other Google services. G Suite users can still access Google+ within their organization, as Google is still developing Currents, Google+'s successor.

Picasa Web Albums API: Picasa Web Albums were depreciated in 2016, but the API that let third party services and services access to Picasa Web Album data only shut down in March. Developers could migrate to the Google Photos Library API, but there are notable differences. In particular, no Google Photos albums are public, it's designed for personal media, and there is no option to embed photos or videos on websites. It also doesn't allow image files to be stored by third parties, and doesn't work for third party video or photo editing software.

Allo: Allo was one of Google's myriad messaging platforms, launched in 2016. Notably it brought integration with Google Assistant to messaging. Allo was shut down in March. Many of its features are available in Google Messages, Google's Android text messaging platform, which supports SMS and RCS Chat.

Inbox: Inbox by Gmail launched in 2014, and was meant to be the smart "mailbox of tomorrow".  Inbox was shut down in March. Many of Inbox's smart features have been added to Gmail, which turned 15 this year. URL Shortener: The URL shortener launched in 2009 as a feature for the Google Toolbar and FeedBurner, and eventually expanded into a general link shortening service. But times change, and Google shifted their focus to Firebase Dynamic Links in 2018.  The Console and data was available until March. Existing links continue to direct to their original destination.

YouTube Gaming Mobile App: YouTube Gaming launched in 2015 as a stand-alone gaming app and site, with a focus on live streaming and, naturally, games. The YouTube Gaming app offered mobile live streaming before it was available in the YouTube app. In 2018 the YouTube Gaming website was retired, but the app was available until May this year. Some features that originally launched there, like dark mode, are now available to everyone. The home for gaming on YouTube is

YouTube DMs: YouTube has used a number of different private messaging features over the years. The original Inbox was replaced by Google+-based Messages in 2014, which was then replaced by the new Direct Messaging with Friends feature in 2018. And that, in turn, was shut down in September.  There is no longer any way to send private messages on YouTube, which says they want to focus on "improving public communications".

Google Photos no longer syncs with Google Drive: In March 2015 Google+ Photos became available in Google Drive in a special "Google Photos" folder. Just two months later Google Photos - separate from Google+ Photos - launched and the mystery of the missing "+" on the Drive folder name was solved. You could also opt to see the photos and videos you uploaded to Drive in Google Photos. It was a useful feature that let you access your photos from 3rd party services (especially after the Picasa Web Album API shut down), embed your Google Photos videos on your website, or upload videos to YouTube. That syncing was sadly turned off in July.  You can still import images from drive into Photos and and Photos already synced with Drive are still there.

Hangouts on Air: Hangouts on Air was an amazing live streaming platform, in its time. It came out of Google+ and let ordinary users live stream a Hangout Video Call with nothing more than a webcam and internet connection. It was eventually moved to YouTube Live Events, but hasn't been updated in many years. It was not implemented in the new YouTube Live Control Room and was removed completely on August 1st. It wasn't too surprising, as it relied on Google+-based apps for some functionality, and users of classic Hangouts Video calls will soon (or at least soonish) be migrated to the new Hangouts Meet.

Google Bulletin: Bulletin was an experimental service for live reporting on "hyperlocal" events launched in January 2018. You could use the Bulletin web app to post text, photos and videos during an event. Bulletin shut down in November, and recommended using Blogger as an alternative.

New Tools for Creators

In addition to updates in YouTube, Blogger, and AdSense there were other new apps and features for Creators in the Googleverse.
It will be interesting to see what 2020 brings.