Google Reader lived on borrowed time: creator Chris Wetherell reflects

53 thoughts on “Google Reader lived on borrowed time: creator Chris Wetherell reflects”

  1. I think Google Reader is a great product I use every day……..1 of Google’s 3 or 4 BEST programs……and that this was a crappy move by Google….and a wrong move. Google spends millions of wasted dollars on pet projects, then kills one of their best products on a whim…………..they act like children sometimes………..

  2. “Who cares how many unread items there are.” – BLOG READERS DO. Because unlike news sources and cobbled together items like gawker, buzzfeed, et al… a personal blog, written by one person as a story of their lives needs to be read, in order usually. If I am reading a personal journey and then miss a big chunk, I’ll have no idea how they got there.. .

    I also use Reader to keep me updated on specific searches on craigslist…rare items that hardly ever are listed. So yes, I need to see EVERY item – because if I miss this one, the next one might not show up for a year or two.

    There are many other uses for an RSS reader than just “news items”. Think outside the box, Google!

  3. The implications of the decision must go well beyond what they realise – I don’t rely on Google Reader but I do rely on RSS, and if Google will no longer support RSS generally I will be forced you use other search engines.
    Social sharing has its uses, but it’s output is always other people’s choice. RSS output is sources chosen by me – different and complementary.
    RSS opens up the web so are Google in favour of slamming their doors in our faces. Thanks and goodbye Google, you idiots.

  4. I use Google reader more than I use google for search or even my GMail.
    The fact they wernt trying to push paid content meant the information was real, and unfiltered. You can subscribe ANY feed, from any site that you want, and you dont HAVE to have twitter or Facebook.
    Most of the good reader clients though allow frictionless sharing. If I see something I like or wnat to comment on, I often just share it in Reeder to facebook, so people I care about swill see the post, and comment, rather than just the readers of comments on that post on the site I linked from.
    Reader mean I can plough through new content from about 100 sites in just the time it takes me to have breakfast. The fact that I can filter out stuff I have read on any of my devices is critical.

    How can Google not work out how to sell data based on the sites I link to and posts I read? Maybe the nature of the RSS feeds filtered out ads kept revinue to a minimum. 8(

  5. What we do need is something faster than RSS but that’s no reason to kill Reader while there is nothing better.
    This is bad not just for the user but for most sites and many sites need to do a better job at providing an easy way to list articles in chronological order.
    If there is nothing good enough to replace Reader and we end up consuming less content Google’s own revenue might suffer
    Google just ruined the internet for so many today ,wish Bing was decent (it’s not ,i use it often just to see if it gets better) so we can at least have a way to protest.

  6. Google Reader is irreplaceable, it is not only about reading RSS. That
    is the easy part. It is about going back in time and accessing all
    past feeds in an organized way (it is difficult to rebuilt that from
    crawling and web scraping). If you add a blog now you can read
    articles that are not present in the current feed.

    In an increasingly busy world, many of us use Google Reader to keep
    track of the latest news and developments, whether for personal or
    professional purposes.

  7. Prismatic and all other curated „intelligent“ services are abysmal. RSS allows me to actively choose, what and when I do want to read. If I had to rely on Prismatic & Co. I’d long since given up on finding any relevant content.

    1. I disagree. I think it’s the beginning of the end for RSS. Why should sites maintain RSS feeds if the reader application with the largest number of users no longer exists? I used to follow certain Twitter accounts using RSS in Google Reader until Twitter cut off RSS except for searches (not sure how long that will last).

      For fans of Google Reader like me and you, the web will seem like it has regressed. Twitter is simply not a viable substitute even if you create an account solely to follow publishers because of the poor search integration, the lack of stars you can quickly tap (favorites are not as fluid), and the lack of labels (again its organizational tools are not as good). If Twitter can’t nail this stuff how will these startups that Marco talks about? If Marco really thought a viable market existed, he would build an RSS reader himself (perhaps within Instapaper). I doubt we will see anything like that from him.

      1. I should add that I don’t like using free products precisely for this reason. However, our company pays for Google Apps. I wish Google would consider continung to support Google Reader for its paying Google Apps customers. Then at least the company could justify spending just enough on it to make sure it remains up and running. No new features needed. With fewer users, all of them paying, it wouldn’t require as many servers, etc.

  8. I use Google Reader everyday. Or better said the API.

    I use the Reeder App and since a few weeks the dotdotdot.me app that finally allows me to bring an “Read Later” App, together with an ebook reader and a RSS reader, all with highlight and annotations.
    RSS feeds are much too valuable to kill it. Google should innovate on it, not kill that stuff. There is still a lot to innovate in the area of digital reading see for example dotdotdot .

  9. I really don’t understand the reasoning behind this. Google is a public company, and if this is a cost reasoning (i.e., too expensive for what it brings), that makes sense but Google is not saying anything like that — suggesting it just doesn’t fit some box of requirements that their executives want. Which is stupid.

    if they think this will get their google+ numbers up, forget it. I’m more likely to stop using google products all together. This was the only 1 I actually would miss (I can replace gmail and google drive very easily), and sure enough, they axe it without any real reason given to their customers.

    1. Kevin

      I am sure we can stop using their products but the fact is that we should be careful in the future of betting too much on one company well knowing how motivations change all the time. Anyway good luck in your quest for a replacement reader.

  10. Google’s excuse: “as a company we are pouring all of our energy into fewer products”, is simply tosh. The time and money they invested in Reader (and iGoogle) was miniscule after the initial development, and in the scale of such things, it hardly registered.

    The simple truth is that Google are ever more desperate to force all their users into G+.

    This is understandable, and their right – but the assumption that we ALL want social, ALL the time, is simply wrong.

    It is impossible to configure G+ as a funtional news aggregator; the news is simply buried in a sea of comment, making it ever harder to get hard facts, rather than opinion and conjecture.

    Google’s constant claim to believe in communication only applies as far as chitter-chatter.

    It’s another sad day for me, after iGoogle going, but it’s a sadder day for Google who seemed determined to reduce themselves to a Facsimile Facebook.

    1. Mark

      I would say it isn’t that simple – Facebook means a lot more to a lot many more people around the web versus Google Reader. But that still doesn’t take away the sting of losing the Reader.

  11. Sounds eerily similar to iGoogle’s trajectory. Ugly stepchild without any support gains popularity among a rabid set of users then gets sunset because it never truly fit in.

    I think we’re in a transition period between Reader and what you suggest happens automagically. We’re just not there yet because algorithms still don’t have enough information about our specific context to be able to connect the dots. Maybe when google’s glasses can tell our state of mind/mood through a sensor node on our temple then we’ll be closer.

  12. Nice read Om, and an interesting bit that all the data was there (before Big Data became so buzz worthy) but no one did anything with it.

    During the height of the RSS reader, I really wanted to see Pointcast come back as a consumer reader, one that non-techies could glom onto like they had in the past. Pitched it to someone I knew at Idealab, but nothing happened.

  13. Let me get this straight…Google can’t make money off of Reader and so they are shutting it down? Ultimately, that is what they are saying. I love Reader and use it everyday as many of you do. It’s a random change, just like FaceBook. Whatever happened to consumer surveys before deciding to make business moves like this?

  14. My first thought was that someone should buy Google Reader to keep it alive – the story of Yahoo and Delicious, to point to a recent example.

    On the other hand, it shouldn’t be necessary for Google Reader to exist, and it was a mistake for the likes of Reeder and Mr. Reader to depend on it. They should have built themselves as alternatives to Google Reader, not as clients for it. Their integrations with Google Reader should have been nothing more than a way to transfer your subscriptions from one to the other. I can export all my feeds from Google Reader as an OPML file, and importing this is all I should need to get up and running with Reeder, Mr. Reader, etc.

    The thing Google Reader offers that seems most difficult for any other product to replicate and perhaps makes Google Reader irreplaceable is the ability to search the archives of all your feeds.

  15. Om, other social protocols/mechanisms push content, but in a very intrusive manner. Any deep work one needs to accomplish, is being constantly hammered by interruptions. work output and quality suffer research shows. RSS readers, allow one to subscribe to favorites and read when temporally appropriate. Remember when Email used to be a substitute for live/phone, where the user could pick up emails later, and respond more at leisure. Now IM, SMS/push notifications, mobile, email, phone, UC, all compete for attention, all the time, a mash-up of undisciplined excess.

    Anecdotes: I note scoble barely blogs these days,
    my favorite bloggers, still produce much higher quality content.

    I like to visualize a ‘content curation’ quality axis or horizon. Much of today’s content is duplicate, trivial, low quality, noise, A blogger like yourself, invests in what they write, their curated content is of much higher quality and more valuable. Doc Searls VRM concept dovetails with this notion, that users, will begin to wrest control from ‘providers’ on what, when and how they see what the ‘end user’ desires.

    RSS readers are/were an important strategic asset here.. trailblazing, push but enabling a user defined pull. it seems like we need new tools, new UC capabilities, that permit deep work, that permit true personalization and filter out ‘the noise’. I’ll continue use RSS until i find/develop a more integrated tool.

    thank you Chris Wetherell, ‘the creator’ your work has saved me many hours!

  16. Dave Winer in that quote demonstrates the most widespread fallacy of computer developer thinking: “I personally didn’t use this feature, therefore there is no reason for anyone else to use it, and anyone who did use it was DOING IT WRONG.” An important stage of human developmental psychology is the recognition that other people are not me, but are in fact separate entities who have needs and emotions that are not my own.

  17. I reckon there’ll be even better replacements for google reader as a feed reader or even as a service for client apps, but what will never be back is the excellent “search” feature: it’s google search in your favorite sites (i have 374 subscriptions!), and I NEED IT! So many times i forgot to “star” a precious article, but found it again even after days or weeks just using the search input.
    So long, you’ll be deeply missed.

  18. Google are on the downward slope of irrelevance. The same one Yahoo was on long ago.

    I find the closure of iGoogle especially hilarious. They had a dashboard with developer apps (widgets), and then abandoned it 6+ years ago, but if you have just a few widgets on your Android home screen, you’re essentially using a not-as-good, more limited, iGoogle.

    iGoogle was ahead of its time. Imagine they had actually put work into it. It could have been “Google Now” or a Chrome Webstore type thing by now, but 3/4 years earlier.

    The real reason nobody uses these services is because they don’t know they exist, or in Reader’s case, what RSS even is. They don’t realise how useful they would be.

    “Popularity” is not a good judge of how good or useful a product is. If we go by popularity, Gangnam Style is the best song ever.

  19. Google Reader is a filter for smart people. VERY smart people with outsized influence in every realm where ideas and information matter. Google just wrote them a collective ‘Dear John’ letter. It’s not Evil, it’s just biz. Or whatever a co-founder tells himself when he moves further from his founding impulse. The brand ramifications are fascinating.

    Marco Arment is correct that Google Reader suppressed innovation in feed reading. It wasn’t just desktop clients. The nascent ‘Enterprise RSS’ market failed to develop. A big tree is falling over. New shoots will bloom.

    Props to the team that championed Google Reader and to those who kept it alive.

    Great coverage, Om.

    p.s. What a great time for Yahoo to get back in the game with smart people.

  20. I completely disagree with Winer’s comment – maybe that works for him, but it doesn’t work for me – the mailbox approach does – it means I can track sporadic updates from lots of sites, without losing them in the noise of the ‘fast’ sites.

    The problem with Twitter or Facebook is precisely that – it’s too easy to miss something ‘important’ amongst the trivia.

    The annoying thing is that this is a service that ISPs should have been providing (much like Usenet, which was pretty much the reason I first got a modem).

    What I’d like to see? The feed reader app developers get together to specify an API for service providers, rather than tying themselves to a specific back end again.

    (What I don’t want – being forced into a browser-based model. For all the effort they put into Reader online, it was always second fiddle to NetNewsWire for me).

  21. I am SO done with Google’s crappy initiatives. I will find a replacement, probably several because it will be balkanized and bastardized, but will never put myself in orbit around Google again. I will use Gmail and search but consider both of them to be temporary.

    And sorry but I follow certain sites, and DO NEED all the items to read. News articles about Japan I might want to write about, blog posts on anime feeds so I can see what series have “buzz” among American fans. Image blogs, twitter search feeds so I can see what people are saying about me and swoop in to help customers who are upset for some reason. Just because someone doesn’t do things the same way as me, doesn’t mean they are right and I am wrong.

    Balls, this is like losing email.

  22. Shifting your content into a reader took a learned user behavior.
    It required support, integration, and product knowledge to successfully convert a user.

    Once you did though…

    They read and visited more content more frequently.
    They committed to the platform becoming a primary part of their browsing routine.

    Take all the resources that have been wasted on Google Plus, and imagine that you liked on Facebook, shared on twitter, or subscribed using Google…

    You end up with a committed and organic fan base and a day one user experience that is miles ahead of what the G+ team accomplished.

    My name is Ryan Thomas and I’ll miss an amazing platform that made bookmarks and browsing a deeper and more meaning experience.

    @ryantylerthomas

  23. This is Google’s Apple Maps moment. Now is when Google lost the trust of many of its core evangelists, when Google made them feel like they’re the product. Who will entrust Google with their business workflow now, when it can be arbitrarily yanked without warning? At least when you have a local license, you can ensure your work will flow uninterrupted even if the vendor goes under. Goodwill has a monetary value, and I suspect Google has lost billions in one bad decision.

  24. “Rivers of information” just don’t work if you don’t like to lose news. The rivers approach is bad because you can lose information, that you wouldn’t if information was presented to you in an “outlook” way.

    That’s just sad, thank you Google.

  25. Seems to me there are more than enough loyal Reader users that would be willing to pay real money to keep Reader alive and running at Google. Why the hell won’t they consider (or maybe they have?) that directly monetizing this product is an option worth pursuing?

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