The eulogies to Google Reader have started and it hasn’t even closed down, yet. When it was announced on Thursday night that Google was closing down Google Reader, just after the New Pope was announced, my Twitter and Google Plus feeds became swarmed with messages lamenting it’s demise and outrage at Google for shutting the service down.
Honestly, it became the bigger news story of the night on my social network (which perhaps says something about the people I follow on social media) and the anger at Google became stronger and fiercer.
Some people even went as far as too call Google’s actions “immoral” (which brings up a huge question about the morality of businesses and “corporate sin”).
I thought, “Why the Google Reader outrage?”
The next day almost every blog had a guide on what service/services you should replace Google reader with which is perhaps a testament to Google’s near monopoly on RSS readers that it would cause this much uproar. However, It is also gives us an insight into the heart of Google.
A Brief History of Google Reader
Google Reader came out of Google labs in 2005. It was a small operation and side project but caught on because it had Google’s name on it and social elements that separated it from the competition at the time. Google Reader grew in use base and became the most popular RSS reader. Many other programs sprung up afterwards to provide a different user interface for reading, but a lot of them relied on the Google Reader API to power them.
Since 2005, Google has launched and mothballed many programs in it’s search to be ahead of the times and stay one step ahead of the curve. But times have changed, the way we are consuming web content is different now than it was back then. Google has pointed out that RSS is a technology in decline and dedicated RSS readers even more so. Almost every reader service now offers not only RSS, but also Social media content or “best of the web” content as well. Google made a decision to refocus in other areas.
The closer of Google Adsense for feeds was a strong sign and we can only assume that this meant that Google feed ads weren’t making a lot of money (Did you ever click a link to one of those ads in your RSS reader?) and advertising on Google Reader wasn’t practical or didn’t work.
The cost of running the service must have been considerable with their large user base but perhaps the most obvious reason is built in to Google’s nature.
Google Is Always Looking to the Future
With RSS in decline (presumably not a short term trend) Google could choose to invest more in Google Reader, keep the free service (with little/no Return On Investment running) or reallocate it’s workers to develop for the future. Surprise, surprise Google went for the latter.
This is apparently an outrage and Google has done something terrible, but I don’t see why.
Other companies will monopolies on Google’s move away from traditional RSS readers and there will be some pains in transferring but in a few months time things will be back to normal and then Google will bring out something new and amazing.
Stopping One Thing Means More Time for Other Things
Perhaps I am more understanding of this decision because I recently refocused and stopped one of the initiatives I was doing. It took up a lot of time, showed little return for my effort and evaluating the situation would require exponentially more effort to gain any value from it. Instead, I could invest more time, effort and money in things that were showing returns and were more valued and even start doing some new things as well.
People are angry at Google, they’ve upset their work balance and done it “suddenly“ (the removal of adsense for feeds was a good warning sign, which also means Feedburner is certainly not safe either) but people are too caught up on the negative here. Google will reallocate it’s resources and produce something more amazing and more forward looking.
Now that’s something we should be happy about.