Irony, My name is Google Reader

How many of the world’s Internet nerds, info sponges, tech geeks, and lazy news collectors woke up this morning to the news that Google was shutting down their Reader service but did so through the sites they follow through Google Reader?

How do you define Irony?

Yes, like Obi-Wan said, a thousand souls all crying out at once at the news from today (or technically last night.) Google has decided to shut down their free web-based RSS reader and will do so this upcoming July. The news of this impending shutdown spread across the web like spilled Cabernet on a white carpet. And it wasn’t just the tech sites, this story landed on more mainstream sites like CNN.

The general reactions I’ve seen range from disbelief to “Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.” Like all comments on the Internet, the loudest and most boisterous are the negative reactions. People, such as myself, who use this service on a daily basis and have done so for years are all collectively scratching their heads thinking the same thing: What the fuck?

My Google Reader trendsHere is a screenshot of my trends from Reader. Nearly 300,000 articles since 2007. Think about that for a moment: Nearly every significant news story in the tech world I read through Google Reader. The announcement of the iPhone, the iPad, the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD war, the passing of Steve Jobs, the last servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope, Windows 8, and the year of Hacktivism. The list goes on. I follow tech sites like Ars Technica, The Verge, and Popular Science. My Apple news site include Apple Insider and Daring Fireball. I get my film news from SlashFilm and track a baking blog called Baking Bites. I used GR to follow other sites like Engadget, WoWInsider, Autoblog, and ThinkSecret before it was shut down.

More recently, and a wonderful example of how convenient GR was, I set up an RSS feed from Craigslist. I was in the market for a dining room table set and instead of constantly going to Craigslist multiple times a day, I set up a search for the keyword “dining” in the Furniture section for only Northern Virginia and only from private parties. Once I set up the search, I put the RSS feed into my Google Reader. That meant I had one place to visit to scroll through listings while being able to read my other news items. Easy-peezy-Japaneezy.

Google wrote on their blog that they were “sad to see it go” but it’s declining usage and wanting to focus on other products forced them to make this choice. Perhaps, but read between the lines and look at trends over the last year and it is difficult not to become a skeptic thinking this is all about money. GR has alway been free. The arguments on the web I’ve seen that justify Google’s decision highlight this fact. Google never monetized Reader like they did with Gmail and Search. But what stopped them from doing so? Who knows…

There are companies/software thrilled with this news and aligning themselves to fill the vacuum. The problem is, all the suggested sites CRASHED from web traffic – not a good sign.

In my opinion, what Google should do is announce a delay in the shutdown and attempt to figure a way to keep this service running (with regular updates) and still be able to make a buck from it. But they won’t. It will be the most loved and used service Google has provided that will go away. And like all things Internet, it will be missed, but people will find something else, grumble about it, and long for the days of simpler times. Remember that dial up modem sound? Wasn’t it comforting?

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