UPDATE – (via The Verge) Google’s decision to scrap Reader influenced by the cost of privacy compliance.
Earlier this month Google announced it would be shutting down Google Reader on July 1, 2013. It was explained in a bullet point on Google’s blog along with other product changes inside the Google Plex:
“We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader.”
This was disappointing news for reporters, bloggers, content curators and avid readers like Om Malik and Matt Haughey (and myself) who have used Google Reader frequently since its inception. Several tech-focused blogs have already posted Google Reader alternatives. And a two year old blog post from Chris Wetherell, a former Google engineer who helped create Google Reader, also resurfaced in the past week.
Google has created and retired dozens of products over the last decade, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. However, none of those retired products seemed to have the sizable user base that Google Reader had.
Since Google is in the business of selling advertising, and secondarily, charging for services like Google Apps, it is puzzling they have not taken steps to generate any revenue with Google Reader.
I pay for several cloud-based services on an annual basis, like Flickr Pro, Remember the Milk, Netflix and would have happily paid for Google Reader as well.
Google certainly has more business data than I do, backing up its decision to retire the service. Perhaps the overhead costs associated with maintaining and growing the product were too great to be realistically overcome with an advertising revenue model, or freemium revenue model, or a dozen other ideas for generating revenue with software platforms. Perhaps they wanted to focus the staff on fewer products. I doubt we’ll ever know the real reasons beyond, the “decline in usage” that Google cited in it’s blog post.
One thing I know for certain is that I won’t be investing my time and energy into future Google products as quickly as I once did. Being an early adopter of technology always comes with a risk that the product will be short-lived or purchased and merged with another product. However, after nearly a decade of operation, I thought Google Reader was “safe.”
Let’s hope that some enterprising company recognizes the vacuum left by Reader and creates something great to fill the void.