I don’t have a lot of time to surf on the internet these days and our internet is very slow to boot. When I do get online, I use Google Reader to stream a series of RSS feeds from different websites around the net. This means I don’t have to hop from site to site, but rather in one place in a matter of minutes I can scan hundreds of articles for news that interests me. It is fast, efficient and I can be very focused. Google Reader has remained one of the few links in my Safari bookmark toolbar.
That all changed this week. Google announced that it will be shutting down Google Reader on 1 July 2013. There has been quite an uproar online raised by those who suddenly realised they are being put out in the cold. I must admit that after many years of using Google Reader, it has become such a big part of my internet reading that it is hard to imagine net life without it.
Google reports their reason for doing this was because usage was on the decline. Without doubt RSS is not something the mainstream internet market uses a lot, but for researchers, bloggers, news casters and other heavy internet users, RSS is a huge mainstay. So what are the implications?
There is good news and there is bad news:
The good news is for users. There are services out there that this user base will move to. This surge will probably create some commercial interest in innovating and monetizing this market. After doing some research, I am starting to use Feedly. I will also be keeping an eye on Newsblur and The Old Reader. The thing I like about Feedly is that all you need do is sign on with your Google account and they give you access to your Google Reader feeds immediately, plus they will migrate them to their new backend system when Google shuts down in July. In the short time that I have used Feedly, while there has been an adjustment in how the interface works, there are many things I like about it over Google’s interface.
The bad news is for Google. Developers and users had come to depend on this product. Giving less than four months notice will shatter the confidence of many. OK, at least it was not a week’s notice and business is business. Yet for small developers like Mr. Reader, this is a huge blow. You get what you pay for, so you can’t probably expect much more for free, but user confidence is a commodity that is hard earned over years, yet shattered in seconds. Researchers and bloggers who have come to depend on Google for this service will probably think twice about depending on their products in the future. Especially as this user base has been particularly skeptical of Google’s hyped up investment in failed products such as Google Wave and Plus, I wonder if Google has really understood how poorly this news would be received?
For me, Google Reader was one of the main things that has kept me in the Google echosystem of products. It has caused me to look at whether I should consider to continue to keep my email there or if I should head off to other fields. At least in the meantime, while I am very sad to see Google Reader go, I am already settling on another solution and this is causing me to rethink everything about what I use Google for. I can’t think that this is the kind of trend that Google wants to see.
UPDATE: There is a petition asking Google to reconsider this decision at change.org. It has already seen 100,000 signatures.