My attempts to stop myself from getting pissed about Google Reader’s shutdown have failed

March 14, 2013

Well, Google made it official. Google Reader, a web app I’ve been using since just about the beginning of time, will be no more on July 1st.

I feel the same as I did when went through its rocky patch, really, but with an added bit of disappointment. Google Reader’s uniqueness was that it wasn’t just a web app; it powers a number of fantastic third-party applications, including Reeder (one of the reasons I love my iPad) and Headlines Reader (an innovative app my my friend Matt). Luckily, Reeder will live on past the closing of Google Reader, but many other applications (FeedDemon, for instance) won’t survive. Google’s hurting developers with this decision.

After I thought about it for a while, I realized that the shuttering of Google Reader isn’t what angers me. Instead, it’s a perfect example of why I can’t stand a lot of Google’s mentality about products and services.

A lot of people ask why I stick with iOS even though Android is arguably a better mobile operating system in a lot of respects. There are a lot of answers to that; one happens to be that the third-party apps for iOS (including, for example, Reeder) are worlds ahead of anything available on Android. Another reason is Apple’s track record with product support as compared to Google – and Google Reader’s shutdown solidifies that point for me.

Google, by any definition, is a technology company. They make some great products: Gmail was leaps ahead of any other email service at the time it launched, Google Maps did the same thing with mapping, and Google Glass (although I’m not a fan of it) is really amazing tech. Google’s problem is that they tend to lose interest in their products fairly quickly and decide to close them down on a whim. If they do that with a service you like (say, Wave, Buzz, iGoogle… the list goes on), you’re out of luck. (If Google were really as open as they claim, they’d turn the code for Google Reader open source, much like they did with Wave.)

For any Google service I use often (Gmail, Reader, and YouTube, mostly), I make sure that I have an exit strategy. For Gmail, I download a copy of all my email to my computer. For Reader, I sync with NetNewsWire to have a local copy of feeds. And on YouTube, I try to make contact with people whose channels I enjoy so that I have an alternate way to stay in touch if YouTube suddenly disappears.

Dave Winer summarize the bottom line nicely: if you really rely on a service, pay for it. You’ll tend to end up with products with more incentive for the developers to keep going. That’s why I pay a bit more for iOS, it’s why I often pay for apps, and it’s why I’ll probably end up paying for a service to replace how Google Reader helped me work and enjoy the web.