RIP Google Reader
July 1, 2013
To the disappointment of many, Google Reader is finally no more, but the demise of the service shows that passion from users is no substitute for actual revenue.
After months – years, in fact – of speculation and threats, Google has finally pulled the plug on its popular RSS service Google Reader. Created in 2005, it quickly became one of the most popular RSS readers and a petition to save it earlier this year attracted more than 100,000 signatures within days.
For many brands axing a service with that kind of loyalty would be considered suicide. But Reader is one of the few digital peculiarities that has enjoyed huge success without making any direct cash.
As a result, Reader has always had to fight for approval and survival. It has already been ‘saved’ before, once in 2008 when Google wanted to focus on OpenSocial, in 2009 when Google wanted to focus on Buzz, and in 2010 when the digital giant preferred to put its efforts into Google+.
It seems to be the latter that has ultimately killed off Google Reader. One of the main reasons the service has remained could be in the hope users would seed content into G+. However clearly this has not happened to the extent Google was hoping. By closing the RSS service, which does share some similarities with G+, Google may be trying to push loyal Reader users towards its social network.
The demise of Google Reader is good news for competitors such as feedly, which allows users to share content through all social media not just G+.
But ultimately if Google cannot make money from such a service, it’s questionable as to whether anywhere else can, particularly as the wider landscape is not looking rosy for RSS feeders as more and more individuals use Twitter as a news aggregator.
Google Reader has all the qualities that companies want in their products – it has grown organically, its features have been determined by users and built from the bottom-up, and it’s heavily used. Users certainly feel passionate about it. But passion does not equal revenue, and without revenue, there is no future even for the most well-loved product.