The End of Google Reader
A glimpse into my Google Reader...
There were lots of emotional people on the Internet earlier in the week. People almost in tears over news that Google are to cease operation of Reader, their "cloud-based" RSS feed reading service. Angry mobs, lashing out at everyone, including Dave Winer, creator of RSS. For me the news was a mixed bag. Yes it's annoying that Reader will be going away. It was nice having all my feeds with me wherever I went, but on the other hand, using Reader mean't that I totally ignored desktop feed readers and the features they offer. I am currently testing out a barrage of cross-platform programs and applications, and thoroughly enjoying it.
I don't know why Google are retiring Reader, to be honest. Obviously, it must be a large drain on resources, keeping track of everyone's "read/unread" feed states, but surely a persons choice of RSS feeds is valuable information to Google/advertising/CIA etc. RSS feeds have one clear advantage over social media data: it's anonymous. You follow RSS feeds of people and things that you wouldn't when you are being watched, like with your "Following" list in Twitter. RSS delves deeper into your psyche than social media. I'm still not sure why Google don't want that aspect of you anymore.*
The most damaging aspect to the discontinuation of Reader, for Google, comes not from the disgruntlement of ex-Reader devotes, but from the waning confidence of Google users in general. People are afraid to invest time and money in Google solutions because they don't know what's going to get the chop next. How would we feel if Gmail went away? Worse than the fallout for Google is the fallout for RSS. Not only is this a clear indication that an internet giant like Google wants to kill the format, it also makes it harder for the regular Joe to make use of it. RSS just became a hundred times more obscure.
Sergey Brin's vision? Don't consume content; become content.
Google is tightening up it's ship, but no-one really has a clear vision of Google's future, not even Google employees. Youtube goes through a interface change every 6 months, for no apparent reason. Google+ keeps changing too but that can be put down to Google constantly trying to keep it vibrant, they don't need to do that with Youtube. Or perhaps they do. Perhaps change is what keeps people interested. It keeps people talking about it, certainly.
The most rapid change in design and purpose pivoting, that I've ever seen in an Internet service came with Russian social media entity, Футубру (Futubra). Initially it started off as a Twitter clone, but they quickly turned into something more like Tumblr. Finally it went to something even the creators found hard to explain. With each iteration it disgusted more and more users until finally the owners (mail.ru) called it a day and shut down the website, not even a year after creation. Change in that case wasn't good, but it was a new service, Google is [relatively] old, and it's services are [relatively] old. A lot of people rely on their services and are prepared to adapt to whatever Google decides, even if part of that is termination.
I'm not afraid of obliteration. My blog is hosted by Google, through their Blogger service. With the way things are heading, it seems probable that Google will smash Blogger into Google+ and no-one can really be certain about the consequences of such a merger. If Google were to just shut it down completely, I think it would be regrettable but not life shattering, not for me anyway. With Yahoo destroying much of early Internet history with the shutting down of Geocities, it was a lesson for us all. Nothing is forever, not even on the Internet. Eventually, all pictures of Goatse will vanish.
* Perhaps another example of Google moving away from delivering what you like, towards what they want you to like.
Posted at 00:24