Without any touch of irony, Google have announced on their Official Google Reader blog that the service will be shutting down:
We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too.
There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined
Because you actively made it less useful.
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.
In other words, you want us using Google+ instead. How many failed social networks does this make for Google now… seven?
Google Reader was my Twitter
In 2007 (or maybe 2006?) I made the shift from Bloglines to Google Reader, largely because all my Whole Wheat Radio friends had done so already. The initial early-AJAX interface seemed more cumbersome than the relatively simple frame-based design of Bloglines, but I liked that I could star and share posts and view my friends’ comments.
Now that I think of it, Google Reader was my Twitter from back in the day. Rather than being a single user blog reader desktop application, the key was you were sharing thoughts and stories with people you trusted, as well as just pulling feeds. I discovered so much stuff from Jim and Sparx and Atuuschaaw and the whole gang.
Google tweaked the UI several times during the service’s history, rendering the interface gradually uglier and more difficult to use, but with some simple Greasemonkey scripts you could be back to the old goodness again without too much trouble.
The beginning of the end
The wheels started to come off for me when Google+ launched, and all those social features were stripped out in favour of a +1 button. It was obvious at this stage that Google saw no future in the service, and that they wanted everyone using Google+ to share and comment on stories. Like so many applications throughout tech history, it had become an awkward stepping stone we were all expected to accept and move off from.
(To be fair, I also jumped ship at this stage because they said my name wasn’t real. Stay classy, Google).
As with so many terminated sites, I’ll miss Google Reader for the community of people we had there. They’re probably mostly on Google+ now anyway given The J-Walk has abandoned blogging.
Final random thoughts
In looking for Google Reader replacements, it continued to baffle me that so many third party services relied on Google Reader to sync. I wonder how they’ll be dealing with this?
Also, I find it ironic that Bloglines, the original web-based blog reader that’s now owned by the tiny Merchant Circle, was able to outlive Reader, the service released by the Google Behemoth. The lesson here, backing from a huge company doesn’t always (in fact often doesn’t) buy security.