Google sees its first post-Alphabet spin-off


niantic project ingress

Niantic Labs/Ingress

An image from Ingress

When Google dropped the bombshell about its enormous corporate overhaul on Monday, analysts and investors predicted that we'd likely start seeing some spin-offs.


Lo and behold, the first comes even sooner than expected.

Niantic Labs, a startup within Google that has launched an augmented reality game called Ingress as well as a location discovery app called Field Trip, is becoming an independent company, it announced on Google Plus.

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"We'll be taking our unique blend of exploration and fun to even bigger audiences with some amazing new partners joining Google as collaborators and backers," its post reads.

The post hints that Google will still be involved financially, at least at first, as right now both Ingress and Field Trip are free to download and without a defined business model (although in-app purchases or native ads would be an obvious option). Niantic Labs is also in the process of working on an Ingress-inspired television show, The Information reported this spring.


Ingress especially is particularly closely tied with Google Maps. Niantic's founder, John Hanke, first joined Google when it bought Keyhole, the mapping startup he cofounded, back in 2004. Keyhole's technology helped shape products like Maps, Earth, and Streetview.

Hanke built Ingress on top of Maps as a form of gamification and discovery.

"The classic Google Maps experience is really about navigation, but how do you unearth little gems in a neighborhood?" Hanke told Mic's Jack Smith IV earlier this year. "The [Ingress] game mechanic is there as an incentive, and it nudges people to get out, meet new people and discover new places."

Ingress, the more popular of Niantic's two products, has more than 12 million downloads, with big growth ambitions ahead, based on their post.

So, that's one Google spin-off, albeit a small one, to start what could become a growing list.


"They're now ready to accelerate their growth by becoming an independent company, which will help them align more closely with investors and partners in the entertainment space," Google said in a statement to TechCrunch. "We're excited to continue supporting them as they bring exploration and fun to even more people around the world."

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