Google Reader, visually, is awful but its value is not its interface but what it does. Google Reader is the feed synchronisation engine that powers many popular feed readers and enables users like me to follow a variety of terrific blogs. It isn’t the only way to keep up to date on what is happening in the world but it is still a really good way to curate your streams and focus on the stuff you want to see more often.
There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.
I share Om Malik’s thoughts about these reasons Google gave –
I take issue with Urs’ comments about usage declining. It declined because the company put no resources into the product and took away social features that made it useful for many. It was a project that was orphaned because it didn’t fit into Google’s vision of a machine-driven reading experience. Despite minimal resources devoted to it, Google Reader was one of the better apps built by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.
It is probably my second-most used Google service — after GMail — and I have always been befuddled by Google’s lack of desire to make Google Reader into a bigger reading platform. It could and it still can evolve into a Flipboard type service, but that would mean that Google would have to put resources and some real creative thought into Reader.
I’ve been using Feedly and Flipboard as my interface for Google Reader and they are far better than the native Google Reader interface. That doesn’t mean that Google Reader isn’t important to me and to how I keep up to speed on what is going on in the spaces I have an interest in. As Scoble pointed out, this is a real blow to the open Web and, to me, indicates that Google is just as interested in expanding its corner of the Web more than it is about encouraging a truly open Web. It may be that Google has just decided that fighting Twitter’s and Facebook’s inclination to develop more closed communities and infrastructures isn’t worth it and it may also be Google’s decision that there is simply more money to be made channeling users into the broader Google+ ecosystem. Either way, users are not the winners here, regardless of how you may feel about venerable RSS.
Thankfully, Feedly is working on an alternative and is positioning itself to fill Google Reader’s vacuum. It doesn’t address Dave Winer’s concerns about a company holding the keys to our consumption kingdoms but it does offer a smooth transition option. In the meantime, also take a look at the Data Liberation Front’s page with guidance for exporting your Google Reader data.
I pulled together a few links and stories which you may find useful in a Storify, below:
Google Reader is closing down
Google announced it is shutting Google Reader down. It caught many people by surprise and it points to a worrying trend on the Web.
Storified by Paul Jacobson· Wed, Mar 13 2013 23:41:43