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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Google pulls plug on Palimpsest project

Alexis Madrigal, Google Shutters Its Science Data Service, Wired Science, December 18, 2008.  Excerpt:

Google will shutter its highly-anticipated scientific data service in January without even officially launching the product, the company said in an e-mail to its beta testers.

Once nicknamed Palimpsests, but more recently going by the staid name, Google Research Datasets, the service was going to offer scientists a way to store the massive amounts of data generated in an increasing number of fields. About 30 datasets mostly tests had already been uploaded to the site.

The dream appears to have fallen prey to belt-tightening at Silicon Valley's most innovative company.

"As you know, Google is a company that promotes experimentation with innovative new products and services. At the same time, we have to carefully balance that with ensuring that our resources are used in the most effective possible way to bring maximum value to our users," wrote Robert Tansley of Google on behalf of the Google Research Datasets team to its internal testers.

"It has been a difficult decision, but we have decided not to continue work on Google Research Datasets, but to instead focus our efforts on other activities such as Google Scholar, our Research Programs, and publishing papers about research here at Google," he wrote.

Axing this scientific project could be another sign of incipient frugality at Google....

"The Space Telescope Science Institute has had a long positive relationship with Google that started with our partnership in GoogleSky in early 2006," said astrophysicist Alberto Conti of STSI. "We were looking forward to Google's commitment to helping the astronomical community with the data deluge...."

And Conti noted, other companies may step up to help scientists manage their information.  "Amazon is doing exactly the opposite and they might actually fill the void," he said.

Google representatives did not respond immediately to request for comment.

PS:  Also see our past posts on the Palimpsest project and our post on the ongoing Amazon alternative, Public Data Sets.

Update.  See Antony Williams' comments.