The Real Reason Google Killed Reader

In a post Google Reader world, the knee jerk reaction is to sit and list out the reasons to be angry at Google. There’s the fact the service is gone, the fact you can’t get your data easily from them, and a myriad of other things.

Another knee jerk reaction is to try to make a rival product for a now dead system. If this is you, you would spend between 3 and infinity months writing software for a somewhat crowded market, filled with parsing, interface and user problems. It’s sort of an interesting thing to work on, there’s a ton of room for innovation and improvement, but you’d still be working on an end user product and would have to deal with the whims of that user base.

A better thing to think about is why they dropped out of the Feed Reading market. I’ve come to the conclusion that the surface problem for most people is likely that they think too hard to get any benefit out of RSS. This should be an indication to you that either Google thought it was just too hard (i.e. costly) with too little reward, or that they made a mistake.

While I may disagree with some of the aesthetics of what Google does, and some of the product designs, one thing is perfectly clear. They are not dumb. They saw the writing on the wall about what they were doing with RSS, what they could do, and then decided to take the swiftest action they could in order to hurt a lot up front but be blunt and honest about the situation.

The writing on the wall for most people is that they are getting their news and information from their friends on social networks when online. Friends and even acquaintances are more trusted than random websites with an RSS button. Techie friends post about things that interest them, fashion friends post about their trendiness. If you friend a reporter from a major city you live in or near you’ll get all sorts of neat facts there as well. The writing on the wall is that Google had two competing products, Google Reader and Google Plus. Both are not obviously competing, but they do compete with each other. However Google Plus provides just enough news-like information for 80% of people, while also providing other things as well. To me this is what caused Google Reader to get cancelled. Google couldn’t sell it because they recognized that it was a competitor to their preferred product, but they couldn’t keep it because of the same reason.

So Reader bit the big one, the masses who continued to use it cried foul. But will it matter in a year? Most likely not to Google. It might matter to some people still, but at that point we’ll likely see a product come out that will service the majority of existing Reader users who dislike the existing solutions. I fully believe there is a way to turn RSS into something that even my grandma would use, but Google definitely didn’t think it was worth it to them while continuing to compete with their social network. They cannot be faulted for coming to that conclusion. However with them leaving the market there’s definitely a potential for someone else to swoop in and fill the void. I just hope that whoever does it comes up with something different. Or one day they too will close their doors due to a decline in usage.


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