Don't cry for Google's Reader

Everybody loves a bit of spring cleaning, but Google's latest efforts have really stirred up a hornet's nest. That angry buzz reverberating across the net is the sound of thousands of loyal Google users lamenting the death of Google Reader.

As Google pointed out in its blog post yesterday, the Reader's day are numbered, with the feeds to go silent on July 1. While Google points out that the decision was driven by pragmatism, perhaps it underestimated just how emotionally attached many have become to the Reader.

The announcement has enraged users across the globe, sent the Twittersphere into a tizz and even prompting a vociferous appeal to get the Reader a stay of execution. 

For those not familiar with the tool, it basically allows you to follow a website and get a quick look at all the posts that have been added to it. It’s a rather handy companion for anyone who needs stay abreast of the news.

What's interesting here is that the Reader wasn’t broken. In fact, for a system developed in 2005 it wasn’t even showing signs of age. So, why did Google pull the plug?

Simply, the Reader's user base may be loyal and loud but it's also in the wane. Here's what Google says in the blog post:

While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

There’s also speculation that the company may not see a need for the Reader in the “social era” where content is valued by whether or not is shared. Google has already rolled search systems that tie into social media, so following that train of thought the move away from the unfiltered content overload generated by RSS feeds makes sense.

Let's also keep in mind that Google could be killing the Reader to make room for another, better service – one that it’s yet to announce. Google Reader is more of a friendly service than a money spinner, so perhaps it will re-introduce a similar system that somehow integrates with Google+ and perhaps adds some more advertising. 

Losing touch and losing users

Motivations aside, there will be many who will wonder if Google has lost touch with its customers. Google buried the announcement to scrap both the Reader and a number of other no-name features, as if to indicate it wasn't a big deal. Indeed, Google more than likely has usage data on the service and as a result of that, it probably concluded that nobody would really care if it was cut.

Yet the uproar that’s happening in the Twittersphere seems to prove otherwise. Many are grasping at straws trying to comprehend the move.

Some saw a strange correlation between the announcement of the new Pope and the axing of the Reader.

Graph for Don't cry for Google's Reader

Graph for Don't cry for Google's Reader

Others started jumping ship.

Graph for Don't cry for Google's Reader

Some competitors crumbled under the pressure.

Graph for Don't cry for Google's Reader

And some just won’t accept Google’s decision.

Graph for Don't cry for Google's Reader

So far, polls against the move on Change.org have gained significant traction, with over 100,000 users signing up to save Google Reader since the news broke. 

But let’s be clear: polls and petitions won’t change the company’s mind. Google follows user data, not data created by its users. It's understandable that people are passionate about this decision, but perhaps it’s best to accept it and move on. 

So instead of lamenting the tool and counting down the days until Google pulls the plug, perhaps users should take the initiative (and Google's advice) and try out some other services. That’s what I’ll be doing.