Google wields its digital brush again, cleans out more lesser-used features

Google's grabbing its digital broom and starting up another round of spring cleaning for the features, services, and apps its patrons no longer use with great frequency.

On the chopping block this go-around: spreadsheet gadgets, the 'Places Directory' Android app, the game-like Google News Badges, and a combination of one's free storage across Google's Picasa and Drive services.

"Technology offers so many opportunities to help improve users' lives. This means it is really important to focus, or we end up doing too much with too little impact. So today we're winding down a bunch more features — bringing the total to nearly 60 since we started our 'spring' clean last [autumn]" wrote Google's Yossi Matias, senior engineering director, in a blog post.

Google's officially killing Adsense for Feeds — a means by which content creators could allow Google to slap ads directly into their RSS feeds as a revenue-generating system. Google's starting the retirement process for the service on 2 October, with the goal of shutting it down entirely on 3 December.

The company's plans to mash together storage for Picasa and Drive means that users will now be given an allotment of free data — 5GBs — that they'll share across the two services. Additionally, those paying for additional storage will find that the free 5GBs offered to normal users is now counted as part of their paid storage chunks. In other words, buying 100GBs of storage across Picasa and Drive gets you 100GBs, not 105.

For those who turned to Google's News Badges as a means for validating their noses for news, Google is officially discontinuing the game-like icons that would previously indicate one's appreciation for a particular type of news — like a "Harry Potter" badge, if all you do is read articles about the boy wizard. Voracious readers could earn badges across five different enthusiasm tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and the not-quite-a-metal, "Ultimate" ranking.

Since they're already integrated in Google's existing apps, Google's also killing its gadgets feature for Google Spreadsheets — most of the popular gadgets have already been pushed into the app — and its Places Directory Android app, which has been supplanted by plain ol' Google Maps.

Finally, Google will no longer allow users to add customised backgrounds to Google.com via the company's "Classic Plus" feature. Starting in November 2012, the main Google page will revert to that-which-everyone-else-sees, instead of whatever customised image you've previously uploaded to use as a background. As far as aesthetically pleasing search goes, Bing wins this round.