When speaking at the Code Conference the previous week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that the technology business needed to become 20% more efficient. This was a statement that many in the industry interpreted to imply that the possibility of personnel reductions may soon be on the table. Now, it seems as if that forecast may turn out to be accurate. TechCrunch has obtained information, and Google has verified, that the corporation is terminating projects at its in-house research and development division, which is known as Area 120.
Tuesday, the corporation told employees of a “reduction in force” that would see the size of the incubator being cut in half. At the same time, fifty percent of the teams working on new product developments were informed that their ideas would not be moving forward. In the past, Area 120 served as a home for a total of 14 different projects; now, however, there are only seven of them there. Employees who were working on projects that will not be continued were informed that they must find a new position inside Google by the end of January 2023 or they would be dismissed from their employment. It is unclear whether or not everyone will be able to do this.
Elias Roman, who is in charge of Area 120, claims that the division’s goal is to narrow its emphasis to exclusively AI-first initiatives. This is in contrast to its previous objective, which was to stimulate product incubation throughout the whole of Google.
TechCrunch obtained information about the adjustments from a person who was familiar with the situation. Google issued a statement in which it verified the modifications.
“Area 120 serves as an in-house incubator for the development of novel and experimental goods. According to a Google representative, the team often initiates and terminates initiatives with the goal of exploring possibilities that seem to have the most potential. “We recently announced that Area 120 would be moving its emphasis to initiatives that build on Google’s extensive investment in AI and have the potential to tackle critical customer issues. This move will take place in the coming months. As a direct consequence of this, Area 120 is finishing off a number of projects in order to create room for new ones. A specialised support system will be made available to affected team members as they investigate other opportunities and initiatives inside Google.
The division is responsible for the development of a number of products that have been commercially successful over the years. These include the HTML5 gaming platform GameSnacks, which is now integrated with Google Chrome; an AirTable competitor called Tables, which exited to Google Cloud; an AI-powered conversational ads platform AdLingo, which also exited to Cloud; video platforms Tangi and Shoploop, which exited to Google Search and Shopping, respectively; the web-based travel app Touring Bird, which Qaya, a platform that provided online shops for digital producers and was released around the end of the previous year, is one of the projects that will be terminated as a result of the adjustments. The “link in bio” solutions that are available today, such as Linktree and Beacons, are comparable to what Qaya offers, with the bonus of integration with Google Search and Google Shopping. It is also possible that it might be connected to a YouTube Merch Shelf, which would advertise the creator’s various goods and services.
The other six projects that are being scrapped have not yet been released, but they include a financial accounting project for Google Sheets, another shopping-related application, analytics for AR/VR, and, sadly, three initiatives relating to climate change. These more recent efforts have centred their attention on electric vehicle (EV) car-charging maps with routing, carbon accounting for information technology, and carbon monitoring of forests.
Following the reorganisation of the Area 120 team that took place a year ago, which saw the group being relocated under a new “Google Labs” division managed by seasoned Google employee Clay Bavor, these adjustments have been implemented. After then, the incubator was put together with other forward-looking activities being undertaken by Google, such as the company’s innovations in virtual and augmented reality, as well as its cutting-edge holographic videoconferencing project known as Project Starline. According to our knowledge, Google Labs and Starline are not currently experiencing any issues.
Pichai made the announcement in July that Google will slow down its recruiting and sharpen its focus. However, the business had previously said that larger-scale layoffs were not on the agenda, and that it would continue to employ for engineering, technical, and other crucial areas. However, as part of the firm’s increased focus on productivity, the corporation accepts that there is a possibility that it may need to reorganise teams, deprecate goods, or even, at times, remove jobs.
The members of the Area 120 team whose projects have been terminated will get assistance from Google’s recruiters in their search for new jobs; however, it is important to note that placement is not guaranteed in circumstances such as these.
Greater than 174,000 people are employed at Google. According to one source, Area 120 had more than 170 workers at the beginning of the year but now has under 100 employees. However, Google has informed us that these statistics are not true.