Google sets Dropcam demise date, and I say goodbye to a friend

Goodbye Dropcam
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Dotted around my home are a handful of security cameras. I have a Nest Cam Outdoor for my backyard, a Nest Hello video doorbell at my front door, and in my living room a Nest Dropcam that's been watching my home for a decade. Within a year, it'll be a useless collection of glass, metal, plastic, and silicon, and it's all Google's fault.

This week Google announced that it's discontinuing support for Dropcam. This doesn't just mean that the wireless (aside from power) webcam will no longer get software and firmware updates. It means it will stop working with the Google Nest App. 

I manage all three cameras through the one app, which is awesome. As Google explained in an email I received on Friday, "Starting April 8, 2024, your Dropcam will no longer work. You won’t be able to use the Nest app to check the status of your Dropcam, view live streams, receive notifications, or change settings."

In other words, a piece of smart home security system hardware I bought more than a decade ago and that's been working perfectly for years will cease to perform its singular task.

In the email, Google somewhat disingenuously notes that when it launched Dropcam 10 years ago, " it was one of the first smart cameras on the market." They're almost half right. Dropcam has been around since at least 2010 when it was an independent company. Then Nest, which had been acquired by Google only months before, purchased them in 2014.

Google spent years rebranding, reskinning, then ultimately pushing Dropcam into the shadows. That didn't seem to bother my Dropcam, (officially known as Dropcam DCAM-001-THD) which quietly captured HD-quality video and streamed it over my Wi-Fi network to first my Dropcam app and eventually the Nest app, allowing me to check in on my home (video and audio) from anywhere in the world.

Now the clock is ticking on its demise.

An empty offer

But wait. Google is doing right by devoted Dropcam owners like me. It's offering me a 50% discount on a new Nest Cam. It's a nice device with not only HD-quality video, but night vision and a really wide 135-degree field of view. It normally costs $99.99 but I could get it for $50. 

Or not.

Turns out the deal is only good for people who also pay for Google's Nest Aware cloud-based video monitoring. For $6 a month, you can go back and see all the videos your Nest Cam captured. Without it, you can only see live video and motion alerts-based clips for last hour or so. I have never paid for Nest Aware (I don't need another monthly bill), so I am not qualified for this discount.

Maybe it's for the best because, as of April 8, 2024, whatever video history Google has from my Drop Cam would no longer be available anyway. For those that do have a history, Google suggests downloading it ASAP.

Google seems intent on tightening its smart home loop to both simplify its use and maybe make it more secure (this may all be in preparation for a wholesale switch to the more unified Matter platform).

In addition to killing off Dropcam, Google is ending its "Works with Nest" program. It's been in the process of winding support for third-party products within the Nest ecosystem for years but now it's set a cut-off date. Connections between Nest and these devices will stop working on September 29, 2023. 

This will get worse

I'm slowly coming to grips with the harsh reality of smart home technology. Unlike your analog deadbolt lock and key that might remain unchanged and functional for decades, smart home technology is almost alive. It's constantly getting software updates and will always need software support for both its firmware and the app that controls it. 

Eventually, they might stop supporting your old smart light, lock, and camera in favor of a new and better one. New software will support both old and new devices, but not indefinitely. Eventually, you'll be forced to replace that smart home piece of technology, and far sooner than you might've had to replace that classic door lock.

This is our new reality and the end of the line for my Dropcam. I get one more year with it and then, well, I guess I'll take Google up on its free recycling offer.

Bye, Dropcam, thanks for keeping a digital eye on my home. I really do appreciate it,

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.