It was a heavy week in G world this time around. We sniffled and waved a sad goodbye to Labs, welcomed a URL shortener, a virtual ton of Google+ visitors, new Webmaster features, and saw the first signs of Google letting up on the whole Oracle lawsuit 

Google Kills Labs in Favor of "Extraordinary Opportunities"

It was a sad week for the adventurous, as the great Google announced the closing of its Labs department -- birthing place of the likes of Reader and Public Data Explorer -- in an effort to focus more on its core products.

Since the announcement, a handful of Google's representatives have reported that Gmail Labs, Calendar Labs and other Labs will not be getting axed— just the general experimental playground found at googlelabs.com. What this means for now is that some projects and experiments will be terminated immediately, while others will be folded into other Google product areas.

While there's no telling which projects will ultimately bite the bullet, it's probably safe to assume it will be those that have received little to no attention since their release. For instance, the Internet giant recently killed off Google Health, a personal health records service, as well as Google PowerMeter, a service for monitoring Web-based home energy use.

Understandably, the news hasn't been met by consumers without a tinge of sadness. As Stacey Higginbotham of GigaOm noted, many Googlers are frustrated with the lack of information (which features we’ll lose and when). "If I knew what was going away, and when, I could start researching for alternatives. Or maybe a kindly startup could volunteer to take the feature out of Google’s hands and support it," she wrote.

Meanwhile, others support the giant's decision to reduce expectations for non-stop innovation and magicked-up virtual spaces. Doing so will free up essential time for focusing attention on core products, or heavy new comers like Google+.

 

Now Make Multiple Phone Calls Using Gmail

Google is promoting more conversation this week with the release of a multiple calls feature in Gmail. Now users can run their mouths on more than one phone call at a time.

If you’re in a call and need to make a second one, your first call will be put on hold while you speak on the second. You can switch between calls by pressing the “Resume” button, which will automatically put the previous call on hold:

multiplecalls.jpg

According to Google, the new feature works across all call types (voice, video, and phone); the only restriction is that a maximum of two outgoing calls to physical phones can be placed at once. You can check the Internet giant's official post here.

 

Google Shortcuts to Products and Services with G.Co

Like Twitter (t.co) and the webpage formerly known as Overstock.com (o.co), Google has turned to Columbia for a shortened address. The new G.co will direct web surfers to official Google products and services like Gmail, Documents and Photos.

"The shorter a URL, the easier it is to share and remember. The downside is, you often can't tell what website you're going to be redirected to. We'll only use g.co to send you to webpages that are owned by Google, and only we can create g.co shortcuts," explained Google in an official blog post. "That means you can visit a g.co shortcut confident you will always end up at a page for a Google product or service."

For those concerned about the fate of goo.gl, worry not. The Internet giant says nothing is changing on that front, and will continue to offer it up as public URL shortener that anybody can use.

 

Webmaster Tools: Improved Handling of Parameters 

The Parameter Handling feature disappeared from the Site configuration section of Webmaster Tools this week, only to be replaced by a new URL Parameters option. Along with the name change, Google improved the feature to include: 

  • Describe the behavior of the parameter
  • Provide your own specific value to be used, with the “Only URLs with value=x” option
  • The "No URLs" crawl option -- Meaning that if the URL contains a parameter that is set to the “No URLs” option, this URL will never be crawled, even if other parameters in the URL are set to “Every URL.”

According to the official Google blog, configuration of URL parameters made in the old version of the feature will be automatically visible in the new version.

Check out the full post and all the associated goodies here

 

Google+ Lands 20 Million in 3 Weeks

Since its launch three weeks ago, web-traffic watcher comScore Inc. estimated Google+ has had 20 million unique visitors, including five million visitors from the U.S. 

Such growth is impressive, especially when considering the invitation-only status. "I've never seen anything grow this quickly," said Andrew Lipsman, vice president of industry analysis at comScore. The only other site that has accumulated as many new visitors in a short period of time is Twitter in 2009, he said, "but that happened over several months."

Last week, Google CEO Larry Page claimed Google+ had more than 10 million users, using the data as evidence that there are "more opportunities for Google today than ever before."

Of course, if we're making comparisons (and we almost always are), Google has a long way to go before it can swim in the same pool as Facebook, which has more than 750 million users. 

 

Google+ for Business beta Coming Soon

Christian Oestlien, Google’s Group Product Manager, on Google+ says that the volume of business applications for the Google+ beta program was so large that they've accelerated its availability. Soon, everybody will be able to join in on the fun. 

The decision to move faster was initially hinted at  last week in a blog post by Oestlien:

If you have not already, please be sure to submit your business for our test phase. We will be closing this form on Friday (July 15th) at 6pm PST. To the thousands upon thousands of businesses that applied to be a part: THANK YOU! We won't be able to accommodate everyone, but your interest has got us very focused on accelerating our development plans.

The deadline followed up Oestlien's request that brands not create Google+ profiles, which, naturally led to more than a handful going ahead and doing it anyway (the list includes Ford, Breaking News and Mashable). Since then, Google+ has shut down and reactivated these accounts on multiple occasions for reasons that are still unclear. 

Today, Google seems to be encouraging businesses with an accelerated road map. There's no specified date, but in the meantime Oestlien strongly recommends finding "a real person" that is willing to represent your org as him or herself on Google+ using the consumer profiles.

 

Google Goes to Court

Word on the street is Google might be willing settle Oracle's lawsuit over the alleged infringement of Java patents in Google's Android OS.

Oracle sued Google last August, claiming the Android OS violates seven Java-related patents that Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems. Damages are supposedly in the US$ 2.6 billion range, but until now Google has adamantly denied any wrongdoing and claims Oracle's damages estimate is "breathtaking."

Both companies filed papers Wednesday, providing the court with an update on the reexamination of Oracle's patents, and whether or not they think the case should be "stayed," or put on hold. While Google hasn't specified whether or not it is seeking a settlement, this filing mark indication that the giant may be open to the idea. 

"In a fundamental departure from the positions it previously articulated in its public filings and its public statements, Google clearly blinks," wrote Florian Meuller, a patent attorney who has been following the case.