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Are you mourning the end of Google Reader?

Business Technology | April 24, 2013

This summer, July 1 to be exact, the Google Reader RSS service will go away. Google is killing it, citing a declining user base. This is bad news for fans of the RSS service. But it’s also a learning point: Consumers ought to realize that any one of their most favorite cloud-based services can disappear. Don’t expect Google Reader to be the last one to do so.

An ever-changing cloud

In an intriguing story on Slate, writer Farhad Manjoo wrote about Google’s promotion of Reader when the company first launched it in 2005. Back then, Google referred to the RSS service as if it would be part of the Google universe forever. Consumers believed them, and quite a few embraced the service. Now, obviously, it is disappearing. And the takeaway? Consumers should never be shocked when one of their preferred free Web-based services does the same.

The pitfall with the cloud

Look at your favorite cloud-based programs today. Consider just how much you use them. And then let yourself become a little nervous: Nothing is stopping the companies behind these programs from doing away with them should they stop growing or generating money. This is different from the days when we stored the majority of our software on our computers. If your favorite word-processing service was discontinued, you still had access to it. That’s not the case with cloud services. Gone means gone with regards to the cloud.

Issues for Google

What does this mean, though, for Google? In a recent story, the Economist writes that canceling Google Reader may seem like a small decision. Google does have to make money, and it makes sense that it wouldn’t devote resources to a service that was no longer growing. Nonetheless, the choice to kill Reader might make users skeptical the next time Google launches a new product and wants everyone to flock to it. Why, consumers might ask, should we? Since of course, there’s no guarantee that Google won’t kill that new product one day, too. This isn’t just an issue that Google faces; it’s one that every company that operates in the cloud might eventually have to deal with.


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