Google Reader

March 17, 2013 at 09:27 (Misc)

As I was going to bed one night this week I saw a tweet saying that Google were killing off Google Reader. This was devastating news, genuinely some of the worst news I’ve ever received and I was unsure what I was going to do. Google Reader isn’t just a website; it’s how I read the web. I don’t know how people manage without it and was surprised to read it wasn’t widely used and apparently RSS has never taken off with ‘normal’ people. Now it is fair to say I don’t visit the Google Reader site very often since I started using the excellent Reeder app on iOS but I use that app constantly; whenever I have a wifi connection a quick connection to sync to my Reader account and I have all the headlines (and quite often full stories) to read offline. Combined with Pocket and IFTTT rules any stories I didn’t have time to read could be starred and read in detail later on.

It was pleasing to see I wasn’t alone and (the tech?) world mourning on Twitter. I hoped Google would see their error and save the service but that doesn’t seem likely now that I’ve read that this has been on the cards for a while and Google have no interest in preserving perhaps the greatest thing they’ve ever built. Alternatives will appear, perhaps better services but I really don’t want the hassle of experimenting and finding a new setup when the one I have works so well. Reeder have announced that their app will continue to work somehow so that’s something but I hope I can find a nice web front end as well.

The other great thing about Google Reader is that it just works. I’ve read a few things saying how it has been neglected lately but this is also one of the reasons I think it’s Google’s best site. It works and isn’t meddled with; the layout hasn’t been “improved” or tweaked or overloaded with fancy effects and other javascript.

So I’ll find an alternative eventually but that’s not the real problem. A service that is an integral part of my online life is disappearing without much warning because we are told it isn’t being used enough. I think I read about 500 stories a day, is that not a lot? What will be next to go? If a generation is growing up not using email does that mean Gmail will be in next in the firing line when a smart graduate rises to the top of Google. I understand that companies need to make money and that Reader has a cost associated with it, would it not make sense to try and monetise the service first? Currently there aren’t even adverts on the web page, I doubt I’d mind my feeds injected with ads and I’d happily pay for a service I knew I would use as much as I know use Google Reader. Other people might object to this monetisation but they’d go and find or build alternatives which is something that Google’s monopoly has prevented so far.

I was going to end by saying Google Reader RIP but no, I don’t want you to rest in peace. I want a huge fuss to be made about the bad decisions Google are making and how the future of the web is seriously at risk.

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