Alphabet, the parent company behind Google, is shutting down its Internet company dubbed Loon. In case you missed it, the idea behind Loon was to send hot air balloons to low-income areas to broadcast affordable internet service. Unfortunately, the idea never really took flight (pun intended), and the company says it will “begin winding down operations.”
Project Loon started as part of Alphabet’s moonshot division. The name seems appropriate than ever, as moonshot suggests an incredibly hard task that may not succeed. As Astro Teller, who leads X, explains:
…the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped. So we’ve made the difficult decision to close down Loon. In the coming months, we’ll begin winding down operations and it will no longer be an Other Bet within Alphabet.
Alphabet launched Project Loon in 2013, and even spun it off as an indendent company (under the Alphabet brand) in 2018. The idea seemed simple, launch a series of balloons with the necessary equipment to provide wireless internet to large areas. Alphabet thought it might be easier and more affordable than building infrastructure in low-income areas, or places prone to natural disaster.
The company even saw some successes, and deployed services to people following natural disasters in Puerto Rico and Peru. But some successes don’t make for viability and affordability. And now Project Loon will shut down.
Accord to Teller, Loon employees will find positions at other roles X, Google, and Alphabet. And “a small group of the Loon team will stay to ensure Loon’s operations are wrapped up smoothly and safely — this includes winding down Loon’s pilot service in Kenya.” Alphabet also says it will pledge millions to support nonprofits and businesses to provide connectivity, Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya.