I saw this come across my Inbox today. It is a list of applications and services that Google is shutting down in the coming months. Among the list is Google Reader. Most of the readers of this blog will be familiar with Google Reader as a web-based RSS/ATOM feed aggregation app with a number of features around feed discovery etc.
I came to use Google Reader after RSS Bandit (my preferred desktop aggregator at the time) failed to handle the load that I was throwing at it. Google Reader filled the void and was probably one of the biggest anchors for me in the Google eco-system. For this reason I am surprised that Google is shutting down the service – citing that it has a dwindling user base.
Is RSS dead?
Perhaps with the evolution of social media (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) the need for RSS aggregators has diminished. Basically we now rely on our peers to find and share content via those channels and curate our feed more dynamically.
As a blogger I think that this will have an impact on my readership as I suspect many actually only see my posts because they periodically show up in their Google Reader account. I imagine that the shutdown of Google Reader will likely have a massive impact on professional bloggers.
The real test will be whether all the users of Google Reader bother to re-establish themselves with a new aggregator or whether they’ll just give up on the RSS eco-system as a result.
Impact to Application Developers
My primary means of reading blogs is via Google Reader and a number of applications that interface directly with it, namely Wonder Reader (Windows Phone) and Nextgen Reader (Windows Phone and Windows 8). I’d imagine that the vendors of these applications are scratching their heads right now.
If I were them I would be quickly looking to push out a release that allows me to migrate from Google Reader to another platform of my choice, where the mobile device does the work of copying across the feed and read marks.
Business as Usual for Google
This is not the first time that Google has abandoned what was a fantastic product (albeit with limited adoption). I was a huge fan of Google Wave which the company discontinued. I thought that Google Wave had the potential to really change the way communicate electronically.
It makes sense for a company like Google to continually flush out the products that they think don’t have a future to free up capital for other initiatives. I just wish that they wouldn’t keep doing it to the things that I love using.
Can Google hold onto me as a user?
I’m not convinced that Google is going to be able to hold onto me as a user in the long run. I have got a foot firmly planted in the Microsoft eco-system using a Windows Phone device, SkyDrive, Outlook.com and Windows 8. I have a Google Nexus 7 and use Google Chrome and casually use Google+, but without Google Reader I might forget to login.
I suspect that Google has done the numbers and know that they’ll come out on top in the long run so whether I am a user of their technology is probably not that important to them.
Protests and Invention
Bloggers are a fairly vocal minority group. I expect many of them will protest pretty loudly at the demise of Google Reader before being forced to look for alternatives. You might even see a few community aggregators pop into existence, or perhaps a start-up or two. Existing aggregators will soak up most of the user base that decide to persist with RSS.