This afternoon my Twitter feed exploded following news that Google is shelving Reader on July 1st. From my perspective, this sucks pretty voraciously. Judging by the vociferous reaction online, I’d say I’m not alone in that assessment. This seems downright clueless on Google’s part; then, they’ve had their share of clueless moments lately.
The Chronicle went so far as to state that “…if Google couldn’t popularize it or turn it into a business, it’s probably time to call an end to RSS as a consumer phenomenon.” But I don’t think that’s a valid statement. Google has proven themselves strangely unable to popularize and/or monetize their own versions of popular internet services lots of times already: Orkut, Wave, Buzz, Answers, Google+, Google TV… all of which emulate apps and technologies that other companies have turned into successful products. So this certainly doesn’t signal the death of RSS (though certain pundits have been pronouncing it dead for years in epic-fail fashion.) There are already a number of decent alternatives: Feedly, Bloglines and Pinboard to name a few.
Personally, I think the “sunsetting” (w00t! corporate-speak ftw!) of Reader says more about Google than it does about RSS. They spent money acquiring technology, released their app for free, then decided to close it down when it didn’t make money. I’m still an avid user of both Chrome and Android, but the slashing and burning of Google apps does make me wary about depending on their software in the future. As comments on the #GoogleReader hashtag pointed out, the real message here is to beware of future reliance on free Google software.