Google To Close Reader In Product Purge

Petition to save Reader has more than 64,000 votes, but Google won't budge.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

March 14, 2013

3 Min Read

Google on Wednesday returned to culling products, features and services from its portfolio, announcing plans to discontinue eight offerings, including Google Reader.

The company's campaign to focus on a few popular products rather than everything its engineers can imagine -- euphemistically referred to as "spring cleaning" and described by CEO Larry Page as an effort to put "more wood behind fewer arrows" -- has led to the termination of over 70 products, features and services since September 2011.

As detailed in a blog post, Google plans to close, deprecate, stop supporting or otherwise limit the following products: GUI Builder, CalDAV API, Google Building Maker, Google Cloud Connect, Google Voice App for Blackberry, Search API for Shopping and Snapseed Desktop for Macintosh and Windows.

But it's the company's plan to shut down Google Reader in July 2013 that has upset a large number of Internet users. Google Reader remains a popular way for people to aggregate RSS feeds from their favorite websites in one place. Though Google insists "usage of Google Reader has declined," as Google engineer Alan Green put it in a blog post, the company has not put this alleged decline into context.

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Buzzfeed, a popular news aggregator, claims that however much Reader has declined, it still refers more traffic than Google+.

Unhappy users of Reader are voicing their resentment and trying to reverse Google's decision. A thread on Storify has collected tweets of discontent. A petition posted to asks Google to reconsider. It has been endorsed by Google Reader fans over 64,000 times in less than 24 hours.

Google remains unmoved. A company spokeswoman said in an email that Google has explained its rationale for closing Reader in its blog posts -- dwindling user interest and the company's desire to focus -- and that the company doesn't have anything more to say on the subject at this time.

This is far from the first time that unhappy people have taken to venting via social media. Previous Google product closures, like the announced plan to discontinue iGoogle, prompted similar objections and sent large numbers of users in search of alternative services.

NetVibes, which took in users abandoning iGoogle, has issued an invitation to Reader users. The solicitation appears to have been too effective: NetVibes posted a notice to its users this morning stating, "If you're experiencing slowdowns or feed latency, please bear with us as we work hard to handle a huge amount of new users."

Newsblur, another service mentioned by Internet users looking for a Reader alternative, has been suffering slowdowns due to the sudden flood of interest. The service temporarily suspended free account creation in order to restore operations.

Google's decision to put Reader out to pasture suggests that the company didn't see a viable revenue stream in its RSS feed service. However, that doesn't mean RSS is a doomed technology. Developer Marco Arment argues that the closure of Reader will bring much-needed innovation back to RSS app development.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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